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KWMU Awaits Decision on Federal Funding Legislation

Justin Wingerter
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – As a bill to strip federal funding from National Public Radio moves from the U.S. House to the Senate, the general manager at St. Louis Public Radio is following the news closely.

“The legislation that the House passed yesterday would basically prohibit us from using any federal dollars to pay not only for NPR programming but for all public radio programming we might purchase,” KWMU’s Tim Eby said.

For St. Louis Public Radio, that means such shows as This American Life and their classical music programming, still in its infancy after beginning last summer.

Under the proposal which passed yesterday, KWMU would lose roughly $360,000 annually, a 7% cut in revenue. That’s likely to further their reliance on the private donations that already make up a bulk of the station’s revenue.

“It just seems like the philanthropic spirit in this community is very very strong so we’ve always had very good support from the community,” Eby said.

Eby calls himself a supporter of the “170 Million Americans” campaign, an effort to push back at attempts to defund public broadcasting which gets its name from the estimated number of Americans who tune into public television and radio each month.

The campaign’s website, seen here, states that “the rapidly changing media environment is making public broadcasting more and more vital as a source of unbiased news, local cultural programming, and non-commercial educational programs designed to enhance the quality of life of our local communities.”

It’s a point that Eby echoes.

“Because of changes happening elsewhere in media, we’ve seen more and more [donors] step up,” Eby said. “We’ve grown our membership at the station from 13,000 members to more than 19,000 members in the last three and a half years.”

While KWMU is likely to survive a loss of federal funds, the same can’t be said for many smaller stations across the nation which, as the “170 Million Americans” site points out, “are even more reliant on federal funding than urban stations, and many would be forced to dramatically cut programming or go off the air if federal funds were cut.”

That, Eby warns, will end universal coverage of public radio in the U.S., thereby harming public broadcasting where it would still exist.

As for KWMU’s $10 million move to Grand Center, Eby said that’s still a go regardless of whether or not attempts to defund public radio are successful. 

“The fundraising we’re doing for the move to Grand Center is a seperate fundraising campaign and we aren’t using any federal dollars for that,” Eby said.

The bill in question, H.R. 1076, can be read here. It is opposed by Senate Democrats and President Obama and is expected to be voted down.

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