Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Help Save PTFP!

PTFP is an acronym for a federal program: the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program. PTFP is in trouble.

PTFP is the place public radio and television stations go to apply for federal funds to help build new stations. It also keeps existing stations on the air when the equipment wears out, and helps public radio stations prepare for or recover from hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters.

It is a good program. It has just 3 employees and low overhead. PTFP helped KAXE replace an ailing transmitter in the past, and we hope it will help us build KBXE in the future. It is a small federal program; a drop in the proverbial budgetary bucket. PTFP received a total $44 million in 2011, most of which will be distributed to public radio and television stations.

Yet, for some reason, PTFP has been targeted as one of only 4 programs in the whole government as examples of what the President wants to line item veto this year. Efforts to cancel the program have come from both Democrats and Republicans in congress. They have linked cancellation of PTFP with lowering the deficit.

At the root of this, there seems to be general misunderstanding about PTFP. Some people think it is redundant, because the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds many aspects of public broadcasting, and has recently provided funding for digital conversion.

Unlike the CPB, the PTFP doesn’t only fund equipment if you're converting a station to HD radio or digital TV. PTFP exists to build stations. PTFP is the only place organizations like Northern Community Radio can go for federal funds to buy actual, basic broadcast equipment. The PTFP’s highest priority is to make sure public broadcasting is available to people everywhere in the United States. It won’t pay for everything—the program requires every applicant to leverage public money with matching private funds.

In 2007, the FCC opened what is probably the last window for applications for new noncommercial broadcast licenses ever (because the FM spectrum is pretty much completely full now). They granted hundreds of new construction permits, many to grassroots organizations—community licensees, colleges, nonprofits and American Indian groups, to name a few. Most of these new stations are not built yet. A loss of the PTFP right now will mean an irreplaceable loss in new community radio stations because the stations in the pipeline—that had counted on PTFP for help—may not be able to find enough money to build. If they can’t build in time, their licenses will go to wealthier organizations that can, and it is likely that no new licensing opportunity will ever come again.

This is a critical issue for all small and community-based radio stations in the public radio system. You can help! Here is a link to a letter you can send to your congressional representatives (by email or printable letter) about PTFP. It is on an NPR website, the Public Radio Action Center (when you fill in the identifying information, most of you will be a “non-station advocate.”)

Here is a link to write to your local congressperson: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

And another link to write to your senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Or, call KAXE if you want more information, and ask to talk to me! 218/326-1234.

-Maggie Montgomery, General Manager
Northern Community Radio

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