Lake Wobegon still deserves state support

Public broadcast systems — television and radio — are non-profit organizations devoted to bettering the community. They provide high quality programming that serves the public interest and are a trusted educational resource. In Gov. Jesse Ventura’s new budget proposal he plans to phase out state funding for both Minnesota Public Radio and Minnesota public broadcast television. Overlooking the importance of state funding to public broadcasting, Ventura’s plan demonstrates poor governing.
Public radio and television stations split approximately $8 million in the current two-year budget cycle. By the end of four years, Ventura hopes to completely eliminate state funding for these institutions.
For MPR the cuts would begin with a 25 percent decrease beginning July 1, another cut the following year of 50 percent and finally by the third year a 100 percent cut. These cuts would affect the 24-station Minnesota Public Radio network and 11 other stations. For the six public television stations the process would be a little slower, following a similar schedule, but starting a year later.
State financial aid given to MPR made up about 3 percent of their $23 million budget. MPR has been savvy with this allotment, spending it on capital projects such as constructing stations in rural, under-served communities and modernizing equipment. The state funding given to public television is also approximately 3 percent of the network’s budget. This money is primarily used to conduct workshops and publish program guides for parents and child care providers to use with children’s programming.
Should funding be cut, the majority of programming and stations would move toward urban areas. Many small communities cannot afford to finance public radio and television. The existence of some smaller stations is threatened by the proposed cuts.
While stations think about places to tighten their budgets when cuts arrive, they will also have to think about hiring additional staff to raise money through advertising and other means. Because stations will have to put more of their manpower into making money, their efforts will turn away from broadcast duties. This additional and unnecessary strain would damage the high quality programming Minnesotans have come to expect.
Moreover, MPR in particular provides valuable national promotion for the state. Hardly a day goes by when a principal National Public Radio show does not carry a story from MPR. Such exposure goes a long way creating credibility for a state often only known nationally for ya-betcha’s, lutefisk, cold weather and an electorate that voted a former professional wrestler into the governor’s office. Garrison Keillor and his “Prairie Home Companion” have done more to salvage Minnesota’s reputation than Ventura ever will.
Public broadcasting benefits many Minnesotans. The effects of Ventura’s proposed budget cut in this area would decrease the value of an important resource. Ventura should look for other places to cut the budget instead of picking on organizations dedicated to the betterment of the community he is supposed to be leading. Let him prove he is from a land where “the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are all above average.”