WGAE Urges Funding For Public Broadcasting
January 14, 2009
NEW YORK CITY – The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) is urging the incoming Obama administration and new Congress to increase appropriations for public broadcasting. Hundreds of the WGAE’s members write and produce programming for public television, including such important and popular series as Frontline, Nova, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, and American Experience, as well as such children’s programs as Sesame Street and The Electric Company. WGAE President Michael Winship, Executive Director Lowell Peterson and other WGAE representatives met with members of the Obama transition team, as well as key appropriators and supporters in Washington D.C. last week to discuss public broadcasting issues. They encouraged the new administration and leaders on Capitol Hill to increase appropriations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other entities which support public media programming.
Funding to produce shows on public television primarily comes from corporate and private donations, which are decreasing due to the worsening economic climate and corporate failures. The WGAE notes that one in four public television stations are having problems with liquidity and debt burdens. Layoffs and hiring freezes have negatively impacted the quality of news and public discourse in the country. WGBH in Boston and Thirteen/WNET in New York create a large percentage of the programming aired across the nation.
“At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, adequate funding for public broadcasting is more important than ever,” says Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. “This will help stimulate the economy as well as deepen public discourse about such central issues of our time as climate change, globalization, diversity, and human rights.”
The WGAE says increasing appropriations to public media will accomplish several objectives:
- Put people to work almost immediately. Funding will provide jobs for writers, technical employees, administrators, and others that pay the scale wages along with health and pension benefits – a crucial component of middle-class stability. These employees’ income will be spent in local economies.
- Create high-quality programming which will help Americans learn more about science, history, culture, and one another; enable an increasing number of Americans to participate more fully in our democracy; and promote literacy in underserved communities, which can be achieved by the expansion of the Ready-to-Learn program and other similar initiatives.
The United States spends far less on public broadcasting than other nations. Great Britain and German spend more than $80 per capita on public broadcasting systems annually. Canada and Australia spend $28 per capita. The United States spends $1.70.
The Writers Guild of America, East is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, new media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.