Trump’s proposal would cut 18 percent of KVMR’s annual budget
When Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa held a town hall meeting two weeks ago at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, KVMR was broadcasting the emotional and often-contentious event live.
Those days may soon be over, unless other funding sources arise.
Just days prior to LaMalfa’s town hall, the White House released President Trump’s budget proposal. Among cuts proposed to cover increased spending on defense and homeland security is the elimination of federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The federal government paid $445 million — $1.35 per citizen — in the last fiscal year toward public broadcasting, representing less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget.
Federal funding represents 18 percent of KVMR’s budget, $174,000 this year, and officials say it could have a devastating impact on the nearly 40-year-old Nevada City community radio station.
BIG IMPACT ON RURAL RADIO
According to KVMR General Manager Julie Chiarelli, for some rural stations grants represent up to 50 percent of their budgets, while urban stations typically receive about 10 percent of their funding from the federal government.
“The reality is the infrastructure to put a radio station on the air and keep it on the air costs the same whether you’re in an urban market or a rural market,” Chiarelli said. “The objective of the federal government was to have good quality communication media available to everybody in the United States, which is why they set up this system of granting. They felt the communication, particularly the emergency broadcast capability, was critical.”
That objective has been successful, she said. Public broadcasting reaches about 98 percent of the nation, Chiarelli said, but it is in serious jeopardy if federal grants are eliminated.
“That grant is really, really important for us to have the infrastructure to provide what we do,” she said, “and so we can do something that matches the quality you’ll find in an urban market.”
FEWER FUNDS, FEWER SERVICES
KVMR is Nevada County’s emergency broadcast provider, meaning somebody is in the studio to provide information about fires, floods, compromised dams, evacuations and other emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
KVMR is funded through the end of 2018. Chiarelli said no decisions have been made regarding layoffs and other cost-cutting measures if the budget is approved.
“We do think it would stretch our ability to provide all the services we provide,” she said.
Federal grants help fund every aspect of KVMR’s operating costs, including live broadcasts, the news department, salaries for the 10-member staff and four contractors, and equipment. Recent grants have allowed the station to invest in more equipment, which has made more live broadcasts — including forums on veterans issues, cannabis and Centennial Dam debates — possible.
“Things like the LaMalfa town hall from the fairgrounds, things like that might go away,” Chiarelli said. “It requires special equipment, it requires an engineer whom we pay. Those are things we might have to shave. We might have to rely on more volunteers … A lot of these things we’re doing are not possible in a rural area without (federal) support.”
KVMR currently has 150 volunteer broadcasters.
Chirelli is encouraging those who want to voice their support for federally funded public broadcasting to contact their local representatives or go to protectmypublicmedia.org/act. The website notes a few lawmakers want everyone in Congress to sign letters in support of continued pubic media funding before Friday and asks visitors to urge their lawmakers to sign these letters.
To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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