bert_laden.jpg(TVWeek) Bush Proposes Steep Cut to PBS Funding. President Bush is reopening the fight over government support of public television, unveiling a 2007 government fiscal year budget that would cut federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by nearly 25 percent. There was some confusion on how to tally the exact cut, but public TV and congressional sources said at least $114 million of the $460 million CPB budget for the fiscal year that starts in October would be cut. The Association of Public Television Stations said the total impact could be $145 million when cuts in related programs are added, including a program to upgrade radio station satellite facilities.

Mystech: The president said the idea came to him after deciding the money would be better spent on Haliburton profiteering contracts a troop surge and expressed concerns over the introduction of a Muslim character on Sesame Street.

“It’s more of the same,” said John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations, noting previous requests to cut funding for public TV, most of which were overturned by Congress.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecom panel, ripped the cuts.

“In a 24-7 television world with content often inappropriate for young children, the public broadcasting system represents an oasis of quality, child-oriented educational programming,” he said. “We owe America’s children and their parents this free, over-the-air resource.”

A CPB analysis of the budget said the cuts include the $50 million already appropriated by Congress for next year, elimination of additional funding for digital conversion of public TV stations and a slight decrease in the Ready to Learn program. In addition to the cuts, the traditional advance funding for future years’ programs would disappear, potentially making it harder for public stations to commit to future TV programming.

A spokeswoman for PBS said that the cuts would be “disastrous” for public TV stations.

“For PBS, it could mean the end of our ability to support some of the most treasured educational children’s series and primetime icons to which CPB funding contributes,” said Lea Sloan, VP-communications.

She said the lack of advanced funding would “cripple PBS’ ability to support programs that take years to develop.”

“We are hopeful that Congress will recognize the unique value public stations offer to their communities in everything from advancing literacy, math and science skills among children to providing rich, diverse cultural arts as well as news and public affairs programming to people of all ages,” she said.