July 1, 2011
The Honorable Frank Wolf
The Honorable Chaka Fattah
Dear Chairman Wolf and Ranking Member Fattah,
We write to urge your support for $20 million for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) in the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. This vitally important program is administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and its last enacted level was $20 million in FY 2010.
For almost five decades, PTFP has been the only source of federal matching grant funds used to ensure that locally owned and operated noncommercial radio stations can improve and expand valued public service offerings to local communities. PTFP helped to build a public radio system that reaches over 93% of the American population and to provide service to the most remote corners of this country from Native American lands to small rural communities and areas that have no access to cable or other broadcasters. PTFP is also the only federal funding source for vital technology and equipment, which provides millions of blind, low vision and disabled listeners in every major market in the U.S. with radio reading services.
PTFP also provides critical funding for the emergency replacement of station equipment damaged or destroyed by hurricanes, flooding, tornados, wildfires, ice storms, earthquakes and terrorist attacks. Radio is the most effective medium for informing a community of weather forecasts, traffic issues, services available, evacuations, and other emergency conditions. In Indian Country, radio stations provide essential life saving information in many Natives communities that do not have available or effective 911 services and have limited or no telephone access or broadband (one third have no telephone and less than 10% have internet access). Everyone has access to a radio; they are portable and battery operated. Radio stations therefore must have emergency power at both their studios and their transmitter in order to provide this service.
Disasters threaten the ability of public broadcasters to stay on the air to broadcast needed services and information to their local communities. Without PTFP funds, many of these communities would be vulnerable to the compounded effect of losing their local news, educational and cultural programming offered by their public television stations in addition to the effects of disaster. Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, several stations in the Gulf region were awarded PTFP emergency grants enabling them to get back onair and serve their communities. PTFP was critical in restoring the transmission capabilities of stations in New York, where transmitters were located atop the World Trade Center and destroyed following the tragic events on September 11, 2001.
Our four organizations Native Public Media; the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the International Association of Audio Information Services, and NPR can each speak further to the indispensable nature of PTFP.
NATIVE PUBLIC MEDIA
Native Public Media represents 45 sole service Native stations that provide local programming to some of the most rural and remote Native communities in the United States. Currently unserved Native American communities will rely on PTFP funding in the coming months to bring to the airwaves 20 new radio stations to serve their communities. With the closure of many tribal newspapers and the absence of television in Indian Country compounded by broadband penetration of less than 10%, radio has been the medium of choice for Native communities. Nearly all of the Native radio stations have received or are in the process of applying for PTFP matching grants funds to provide first service throughout several tribal homelands. Without PTFP funding, Native Americans will remain among the most vulnerable populations in both the media and digital divides. Native Public Media is committed to advancing policies, radio service, and strategies that enables Native peoples to utilize technologies in order to sustain strong, engaged and independent communities.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF COMMUNITY BROADCASTERS (NFCB)
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) represents the 250 community radio stations and related individuals and organizations across the country including many Low Power FM stations, which provide independent local service in the smallest communities and the largest metropolitan areas of the country. Nearly half of NFCB’s members are rural stations, and half are controlled by people of color. Community radio stations, particularly those that have been granted construction permits by the FCC, rely heavily upon PTFP as the only federal source of funding to support new station construction. PTFP matching grants are critically important to stations broadcasting in rural and underserved audiences which have limited potential for fundraising due to sparse populations, limited number of local businesses, and low income levels.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AUDIO INFORMATION SERVICES (IAAIS)
Millions of blind and disabled listeners rely on radio reading services in the United States, nonprofit services which depend on PTFP funding for vital equipment necessary to reading for blind and disabled Americans in every major market of the United States. As a worldwide organization of over one hundred independent Audio Information Services which provide printed material in audio form, the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) has a long history of providing disabled persons with the ability to function more independently in their communities. IAAIS member stations have used PTFP funds for decades to purchase the special FMSCA radios that are required by listeners in order to pick up the specialized radio broadcasts. These broadcasts emanate from studios which have also been built or been upgraded with PTFP funds. Continuing the PTFP program will support these men and women in their quest for independent living and who depend on IAAIS member stations for their only access to current printbased news and information. With the entrance of the baby boomer generation into retirement years, the need for such reading services to our senior citizen is becoming more and more vital.
NPR & PUBLIC RADIO STATIONS
NPR and its more than 900 public radio station partners operate as independent, nonprofit media organizations nationally acclaimed for news, information, music and entertainment programming. Today, more Americans than ever over 38 million people are tuning into public radio programming and listening to public radio stations each week. Our audience has grown 58% in the past 10 years, bucking a precipitous decline in other media. Public radio stations have utilized PTFP grants for replacement, maintenance and necessary upgrades of audio production and broadcast transmission equipment. The successful matching grant structure of PTFP allows public radio stations to leverage funding from local government and private entities while providing the money needed to help defray the high costs of capital projects.
We hope that we can count your support for PTFP.
Sincerely, Loris Ann Taylor
Maxie C. Jackson, III
Mike Riksen Vice President, Policy & Representation