NHPTV Vote This Week
When it meets in full session Wednesday, the Senate will decide whether to join the House in prohibiting state funding of New Hampshire Public Television.
House Bill 113, which passed the House 263-102 in February, has received closer scrutiny in the Senate. Sponsored by Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester), the measure would stop all state funding for NHPTV (Channel 11), including contracts with state agencies for educational and broadcasting services.
Vaillancourt and supporters of HB 113 have said that NHPTV does not fit into the state’s budget priorities. Vaillancourt has also staked out ideological ground, saying the state has no business using taxpayer money to fund public media.
The debate here in New Hampshire is not isolated, as a handful of states and Republicans in Congress have introduced proposals to either cut of defund public radio and television.
The fight is more than whether Big Bird will survive on free television in the state. At stake for NHPTV is a loss of an estimated $5.5 million over a two-year budget cycle, along with other funding that is jeopardized if NHPTV isn’t allowed to contract with state agencies. NHPTV is also involved in the state’s enhanced 911 system used by public safety agencies, in expanding broadband in the North Country, and in offering free educational programming to school systems throughout the state.
“HB 113 will have far-reaching and negative impacts on our other sources of support,” said Peter Frid, NHPTV president, in testimony to lawmakers. “Our work with state agencies is supported by general funds, and if we were to do a project with them we couldn’t receive revenues.”
The Senate Finance Committee has recommended against passing HB 113, in part because the station does not received funding directly from the state; NHPTV is funded and overseen by the University System of New Hampshire, which receives money from the state.
Senate Finance Committee member Robert Odell (R-Lempster), one of three Republicans to recommend killing the bill, told New Hampshire Public Radio that lawmakers shouldn’t tell the university system how to run its operations. “We didn’t want it in the budget that way. And it’s not going to be,” Odell said.
We ask readers for feedback on whether the state should the state defund New Hampshire Public Television, including barring it from service contracts with state agencies. Should lawmakers tell the university system how to budget its operations? How Senators answer those questions likely will determine the fate of HB 113.
(Comments below, policy here.)
>> Wednesday, May 6, full Senate session beginning at 10 a.m. at the State House.
This Daily Briefing was written by Michael McCord.