Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Fact Box

Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Formed on November 7, 1967
Non-profit corporation
Headquarters- Washington, D.C.
President and CEO- Patricia Harrison
Employees- NA
Annual budget (2014) $445 million

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was created to foster non-commercial public radio and television programming, including educational, cultural and civic programs. Supported through a combination of government funding, state funding and private donations, the CPB was designed to operate as independently as possible from political influence. The CPB does not actually own or operate any television or radio broadcast stations, nor does it produce any public programming. Rather, the CPB provides approximately 89% of its $415 million annual budget in the form of grants to support independent stations, directors and producers. The CPB currently supports nearly 1,300 local public television and radio stations.


The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson through the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The Public Broadcasting Act was created to foster and promote non-commercial public radio and television, including educational, cultural and civic programming. In the words of President Johnson, “It will give a wider and, I think, stronger voice to educational radio and television by providing new funds for broadcast facilities. It will launch a major study of television's use in the nation's classrooms and their potential use throughout the world. Finally—and most important—it builds a new institution: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

The CPB was inaugurated during a time of intense interest in national television and radio broadcasting. At the time, three commercial networks dominated the American television market, and nearly all educational programming was broadcast by independent television stations scattered across the country. Of the 326 noncommercial radio stations, most were funded by a mix of university, state and private funding, with little communication or organization among them.
In 1962, the Education Television Facilities Act was passed by Congress, designed to encourage the use of television facilities in schools and colleges around the country. Three years later, the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television called for the creation of a national broadcasting service, a recommendation that served as the impetus for the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting two years later.
The CPB initially provided funding and programming through the National Educational Television network (NET), the first network of educational television programming in the United States, which was created in 1952 through a grant by the Ford Foundation. In 1969, the CPB created its own television network, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), after NET came under fire for broadcasting controversial programs about race relations and the Vietnam War. The following year, the National Public Radio (NPR) network was established to distribute and produce noncommercial radio content on a national scale.
In 1983, the American Public Radio Network was formed as an alternative to NPR. It was renamed Public Radio International in 1994, and remains another important affiliate of the CPB and NPR. PRI currently produces more than 400 hours of news and cultural programming per week.
The CPB is headed by a nine-member Board of Directors, each appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a six-year term. Of the nine members, no more than five can be members of the same political party. Each year, the Board selects one of its members to be Chairman. 

What it Does

Nearly all of the Corporation’s direct grants fall into four categories: grants to public television stations, grants to public radio stations, grants for public television programming and grants for public radio programming.  
Local Public Television Stations ($210.2 million)
Support for the operation and staffing of approximately 350 independent local television stations. Known as Community Service Grants (CSG), these unrestricted funds are given to qualified public TV stations and give stations the flexibility to provide programming, outreach initiatives and other services. Projecting CSG funding is $247.8 million for FY 2014.
Local Public Radio Stations ($62.3 million)
This total funding for 900 local public radio station and their programming includes $65.4 million in grants to public radio stations across the country, $21.7 million for programming acquisitions, and $6.79 for public radio programming. Previous grants have included $4 million for the Rural Listener Access Incentive Fund (RLAIF), which is focused on improving access to radio programming for rural Americans.
TV Programming Grants ($361.7 million)
The CPB provides a wide variety of grants and support to independent television programming. The largest program is the Direct Station, or Community Service, Grants. Stations use these funds for production or acquisition of programming. Projected funding for FY 2014 is $247.8 million.
The Opportunity Fund has $27 million in funding to invest in key PBS primetime series, which has included Masterpiece Theater and Nova. National Program Service provides $26 million in grants through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to fund such programs as the PBS NewsHour and Frontline, as well as children’s programming such as Sesame Street.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) program provides $14.2 million to support diversity and innovation through funding of independent television producers
Smaller programs include the Program Challenge Fund, which supports high-profile, primetime limited series, and whose investments have included Carrier, 10-part series on the crew of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, and The Elegant Universe, a four-part series on the universe hosted by physicist Brian Greene. The National Minority Consortia ($3.2 million), is a group of six independent broadcasting organizations, representing five different minority group in the U.S.: African American,Latinos, Native Americans (see also Native Public Media), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Finally there is the General Program Funds, $14 million in grants set aside for other educational, cultural and instructional public television programming that falls outside of the scope of the other grants, including projects with time-sensitive or urgent content. One of the programs, which was first funded in 2008 and is scheduled to continue through 2017 on a $2-million annual grant, is Telling America’s Stories.
Radio Programming Grants ($28.2 million)
The majority of CPB funding for radio programming falls under the Radio National Program Production and Acquisition Grants (NPPAG) program, which provides $28.2 million per year to support the production, promotion and distribution of national radio programs. Programming includes the StoryCorps project, which uses permanent and mobile recording booths in public spaces to collect personal stories from the public. An additional $8.4 million is provided through the Radio Program Fund, which supports the creation of new radio programming, especially news, music and diverse programming.
System Support ($32.5 million)
The System Support category includes approximately $3 million in administrative support for the Minority Consortia and ITVS programs, as well as nearly $10 million in research and development to support long-term planning and decision-making for public programming. This category also includes $4 million in support for the PBS TV Interconnection program, which funds half the cost of the technology for broadcasting and distributing television programming, including satellite, wireless and wired infrastructure. This category also includes more than $7 million in music copyright fees per year.
CPB Operations ($27 million)
Funding for CPB operations is federally limited to 5% of the total CPB allocated budget. These funds go entirely towards CPB staffing and operating costs.

Additional Expenses ($307 million)

In addition to the general grants provided by federal funding, the CPB has requested $307 million in special emergency appropriations, including $40 million to support the transition from analog to digital transmission for public television stations, $27 million for public radio interconnection, $26 million to develop an interconnected multi-channel public television system, and $27.2 million (FY 2013 request) to support the Ready to Learn Program (pdf) devoted to improved reading and educational programming for high-poverty children ages two to eight. 

Where Does the Money Go?

The largest stakeholders of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting include the 1,250 television and radio stations that received CPB funding, as well as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which has traditionally received between 25-35% of its funding through the CPB. The CPB also supports thousands of independent media producers and programmers.

Data on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting