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The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

NMU public media faces loss under Trump

NMU+public+media+faces+loss+under+Trump

The services of WNMU-TV and FM are in jeopardy if the preliminary budget proposal for 2018 submitted to Congress on March 16 by the Trump administration is approved.

The proposed budget by President Donald Trump calls for huge cuts in a wide selection of domestic programs while it would bolster military spending and Veteran’s Affairs. It would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent, the State Department by 29 percent and Health and Human Services by 17.9 percent.

Funding to several smaller government agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB) would be completely gutted.

The CPB offers television and FM radio services like the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) to ensure universal access to non-commercialized content and telecommunications. It does so by distributing more than 70 percent of its funding to more than 1,400 locally-owned public radio and television stations.

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WNMU-TV and FM, which are PBS stations at Northern Michigan University, are among the stations funded by CPB. If Trump’s budget is approved, they will potentially lose their services. Federal funds are especially crucial for local stations as well as local arts groups that often receive matching funds from other donors based on federal allocations.

Communication and Performance Studies (CAPS) students at NMU received an email last Tuesday encouraging them to sign a petition that circulated to inhibit the proposed cuts to CPB. More information about the “Protect My Public Media” campaign can be found at http://protectmypublicmedia.org.

Eric Smith, director of broadcast and audio visual services for WNMU-TV and FM said the station receives $850,000 in grants from CPB that contributes to both the radio and TV services accounting for 35 percent of the total budget averaged between them.

“So if we lost that funding, it would be devastating. It would be hard for the stations to continue. It means that we wouldn’t be able to operate anymore,” he said.

Smith said the loss of TV services would be more detrimental than radio because radio accounts for 17 percent of the station’s budget but television is around 39 percent.

“As a result, radio has less of a reliance on CPB funding than TV but because both stations operate so close to their budget, there really isn’t any extra money that could make up for that difference so it would be hard for the stations to continue.”

Smith said the result of NMU’s public media stations losing CPB funding is not yet conceivable because while CPB provides funding for the services, the NMU Board of Trustees holds the licensing rights for the stations and they would have to weigh in on how to move forward if the worst case scenario happens.

The WNMU-TV and FM stations have provided public media services to the public for over 50 years in radio and over 40 years in television. Smith said a loss of funding would have a two-sided effect on both the WNMU-TV station and CPB because the affordability of CPB-approved quality content for broadcasting purposes would disappear.

“While the CPB funding don’t necessarily pay for those opportunities, we have other funds that come into the program then that do provide those opportunities and when you add those to the CPB funds, it makes up our whole budget and all the students that gain the experience here in helping us provide programs to the community, that evaporates. It goes away and so the students are significantly losing if the stations are no longer able to operate,” Smith said.

Mark Shevy, associate professor of communication and performance studies said during his ten years teaching at the university, multimedia journalism and media production students alike have relied on the services of  WNMU for learning purposes as long as he has been here.

“That’s one of the reasons I really liked [NMU]. I’ve taught at Boise State before coming here and they had public radio, they had public broadcasting on campus, but they didn’t have anything to do with the students. Here, it’s a vital part of our program that we can teach certain theory and methods in our classes but they can go to the public broadcasting on campus to actually hone their skills,” Shevy said. He said the CAPS department relies heavily upon WNMU to help students learn the skills that they need for studio TV production and getting experience in newscasting.

Trump’s budget ultimately pushes for a total cut of $18 billion from discretionary spending, set by congressional budget resolutions, and at the same time, proposes a $54 billion increase in military spending, an overall increase of ten percent. Such a proposal would require a repeal of spending caps imposed by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Trump’s spending outline for the FY18 budget has been defined as a “hard-power budget,” which entails an increase in spending for defense and homeland security at the expense of many other programs in the discretionary part of the budget. Government funding for the current fiscal year will run out on April 28 and the 2018 budget needs to be in place by October.

There are 19 agencies in total that have been proposed to eliminate federal funding for. Funding for governmental programs like CPB, which was created by Congress in 1967, would be cut to zero.

Last year CPB received $445 million in federal funding.

The most significant cut in the budget targets the EPA, which potentially faces a $2.6 billion loss of annual federal funding. This would be the lowest level of funding that the agency has seen in 40 years, adjusted by rates of inflation.

Smith said he believes that in a rural environment, like the Upper Peninsula, public broadcasting is one of the few ways people have of connecting themselves with educational, cultural and enrichment programs that are otherwise available in a larger city.

“That’s what the public stands to lose if public broadcasting goes away,” Smith said.

Another service WNMU-TV and FM stations offer to the community is a link to emergency alert services or a primary EAS facility to the Central Upper Peninsula. If an emergency broadcast is generated by the government or state police, it comes into the WNMU stations before being broadcasted to other nearby stations in the region who rebroadcast the information to the public.

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