Memorandum Returning Without Approval the Public Broadcasting Amendments Act of 1984

October 19, 1984

I have withheld my approval from S. 607, the ``Public Broadcasting Amendments Act of 1984.''

This bill would authorize appropriations of $200 million, $225 million, and $250 million, respectively, for fiscal years 1987, 1988, and 1989 for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It would also authorize appropriations of $25 million, $35 million, and $40 million for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program administered by the Department of Commerce for fiscal years 1985, 1986, and 1987.

Public broadcasting has an important role to play in assuring that a wide variety of information and entertainment choices are made available to American viewers and listeners. Under S. 607, however, the authorizations for Federal subsidies to public broadcasting would increase dramatically. When all of the demands on the Federal budget are taken into account, I cannot endorse the levels of spending on public broadcasting contemplated by this legislation. They are incompatible with the clear and urgent need to reduce Federal spending.

It is important to note that current-year funding for these two programs totals only $174 million. The Oxley amendment would have resulted in a generous and barely affordable increase of 15 percent, to $200 million. S. 607 goes much further and raises first-year funding by 29 percent to $225 million for the two programs. By the third year under S. 607, combined funding would be $290 million, a 67 percent increase from the current budget year. Under present fiscal conditions, unrestrained increases of this magnitude -- no matter how worthy the programs -- are unacceptable.

Legislation that provides for Federal support of public broadcasting at realistic and reasonable levels and that provides public broadcasters with the means and incentives to explore alternative revenue sources would be both appropriate and welcome. If, however, we are to succeed in reducing Federal spending -- as we must -- the levels of spending contemplated by S. 607 cannot be justified.

In withholding my approval of S. 607, I want to emphasize that the continued operations of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are not at risk. Funds for the Corporation have already been appropriated for 1985 and 1986, and funds for 1987 are contained in H.R. 6028, the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education 1985 appropriations bill, which recently passed both Houses of Congress.

I vetoed an earlier version of this legislation on August 29, 1984, for precisely the same reasons that I am withholding my approval of S. 607. I will continue to oppose and reject bills of this nature until and unless Congress presents me with a bill that is consistent with sound budget policy. This one is certainly not, and I decline to approve it.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

October 19, 1984.