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Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1978 Statement on Signing H.R. 12605 Into Law.

November 02, 1978

I am pleased to sign the Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1978. This bill carries out my commitment to a strong, secure public broadcasting system.

Public broadcasting has made great strides since President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, setting the framework for today's public system. The television system has grown from 124 local stations to 282 and the radio system from 93 to 215. Public television and radio have set new standards in children's programs, drama, music, science, and history. Documentaries, news analyses, and live coverage of speeches and hearings have brought government closer to the American people.

Public broadcasting has also proved itself a valuable teaching tool for both in school and adult instruction. It has pioneered such innovations as captioning for the deaf, subchannel reading services for the visually impaired, and signal transmission by satellite.

The bill I am signing will enable public broadcasting to continue this impressive record of development and service. It accomplishes almost all the objectives I set out in my message to Congress on public broadcasting a year ago. Senators Howard Cannon and Ernest Hollings and Representatives Harley Staggers and Lionel Van Deerlin were the leaders on this bill, and I congratulate them for their hard and effective work.

In addition to extending Federal support at increasing levels through 1983, the bill makes important changes to the system:

—It revamps the facilities. grant program, with the goal of extending the reach of public radio and television signals to the tens of millions of Americans who cannot receive them. The program is also opened to allow use of the most efficient technologies, including cable TV and lower power broadcast stations.

—It will increase participation of minorities and women in public broadcasting and ensure full enforcement of the laws against discrimination.

—It strengthens fiscal accountability and limits administrative overhead.

—It minimizes the involvement of the Board and staff of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in program selection, thereby strengthening the system's insulation from political control.

—It requires public broadcasters to operate in the sunshine, with meetings and records open to the public.

—It will increase participation by independent producers and will help them by having CPB act as a clearinghouse for information about funding sources.

—It requires CPB to initiate long-term planning for the system.

Under this bill, public broadcasting will be able to step up production of first-rate radio and television programs here in the United States. CPB has already moved to increase the proportion of funds going to this purpose toward the levels suggested in my message. Now that the bill has passed, CPB and the stations can go to work creating the institutions that will assure a constant flow of excellent, innovative programs. CPB can use multiyear grants to build up production centers to focus on such areas as news coverage, programs aimed at women and minorities, and children's programing. Such centers, along with vigorous local programing, can help continue public broadcasting's progress toward a central role in our Nation's communications system.

I do have one reservation about this bill. I regret it retains the provision forbidding public stations to editorialize. I recommended deleting that clause, because public broadcasters should have the same first amendment rights as other broadcasters.

In addition to signing the bill, I am issuing guidelines on direct grants by Federal agencies. This bill does not cover those grants, but they provide a substantial proportion of the funds available for innovative programing. The guidelines will improve coordination of these grants, help inform producers and public broadcasters about their availability, and help ensure that these funds are never used for improper political control of program content.

The public broadcasting system is constantly evolving in response to the public's needs and to the opportunities presented by new telecommunications technologies. This bill is a step in that process. The House Communications Subcommittee is already considering future steps as part of its comprehensive effort to modernize the Communications Act. I look forward to the report of the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting, due this winter, to help chart public broadcasting's course for the 1980's.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 12605 is Public Law 95-567, approved November 2.

Jimmy Carter, Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1978 Statement on Signing H.R. 12605 Into Law. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243805

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