Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly amending the 2010-2012 state budget – using his line-item veto power to cut state funding for public broadcasting by $424,001 in fiscal year 2012.
“When I took office, I pledged to refocus state government on its core functions by finding ways to make government more efficient and effective, and to wisely spend the hard earned money of Virginia taxpayers. That is why, in returning the signed appropriation bill, I have decided to reduce the appropriation made to public television and radio stations,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell has been threatening cuts to funding for public-broadcasting since taking office in 2010. He had included a cut of 50 percent from current funding levels in his proposed amendments to the 2010-2012 budget late last year. A legislative compromise between the Republican-majority House and the Democratic-led State Senate had restored most of that money, but public-broadcasting leaders had expected McDonnell to use his veto pen to rub out that compromise.
The General Assembly could still override the governor’s veto, but such a move would not be likely given recent legislative voting patterns.
“In today’s free market, with hundreds of radio and television programs, government should not be subsidizing one particular group of stations,” McDonnell said in a statement today.
Public-broadcast industry leaders point out that public-television and public-radio entities don’t really compete in the free market with commercial TV and radio given restrictions placed on them under federal law and FCC licensing requirements for public-broadcast entities.
“I hear that over and over again. You’re radio, they’re radio, why don’t you compete with them head to head? And I say, We can go into that boxing ring with both hands tied behind our back and see how we fare. We’re not allowed to do what we’d need to be able to do to be able to compete,” said Tom DuVal, the general manager of the WMRA/WEMC Radio Network in Harrisonburg.
DuVal and David Mullins, the president and general manager of the Harrisonburg-based WVPT-Virginia’s Public Television, discuss the push from McDonnell to eliminate funding for public broadcasting in Virginia and the impact the push will have on the future of the industry in a story in the upcoming May 2011 issue of The New Dominion Magazine. Look for that issue at more than 50 locations in Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro beginning May 12.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].