How Public Media Gets Funded

By Anne Standley & Cait Beroza |


Federal funding for public media is a process that happens annually. It’s a long and intense journey that is critical to securing essential federal support for local public radio and television stations. Join our Action Network, so you can follow the process and affect its outcome.

Federal funding for public media is only a tiny piece of the final federal budget (less than 0.01%), but it’s important that lawmakers hear from supporters like you every step of the way. After all, without federal funding, your local stations would be unable to provide you with the same high quality programs and services that they do today.

The Timeline

Here’s a breakdown of how the federal funding process is intended to work. Keep in mind that it sometimes happens out of order.

Step 1: Releasing a Presidential Budget

The federal budget process starts with the President sending his budget request to Congress. The President’s budget request is a list of funding recommendations. It is a non-binding overview of what he wants Congress to fund.

The President’s budget is the beginning of the months-long and sometimes year-long process. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest alert.

Step 2: Creating a Congressional Budget

Congress reviews the President’s request and creates a budget of its own. During this process, the House and Senate Budget Committees create separate budgets, which should ultimately be combined to form one final congressional budget resolution.

This sets overall guidelines on how much the government can spend and includes instructions on how the money should be used. It does not determine how much money individual programs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Interconnection, Ready To Learn and the Next Generation Warning System, should receive. Program funding levels are set in the next critical step.

Step 3: Appropriating Public Media Funding

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees use the instructions outlined in the congressional budget to decide how much money each federal program receives. Again, the House and Senate work separately before ultimately combining their bills to set final funding levels.

But first, the Appropriations bills need to go through a few steps:

  1. Discussions about funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Interconnection and Ready To Learn begin in the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Subcommittees. The House and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees determine funding for the Next Generation Warning System.
  2. Once the House and Senate Subcommittees establish funding levels for public media and the other Labor-HHS-Ed and Homeland Security programs, the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Ed and Homeland Security bills progress to their respective full Appropriations Committees for a vote.
  3. Advocates who are represented by Members on the Labor-HHS-Ed and Homeland Security Subcommittees and the Appropriations Committees will hear from the campaign to help advance funding through these key moments in the process.
  4. After the House and Senate pass their bills out of the Appropriations Committees, they go before the full House and Senate for a vote.
  5. Finally, the House and Senate combine their versions to establish final funding levels.

Finalizing Public Media Funding

In the end, the process comes full circle, with the President signing the final compromise bill into law. To learn more about where public media funding goes from there, check out our public media funding facts page.

How You Can Help

Have you joined our Action Network? If not, you can join now.

Then, keep an eye out for Protect My Public Media updates about the federal funding process. We’ll let you know when it’s important to contact your members and will make sure you have all the tools you need to protect essential public media funding.

If you’re on Facebook, you can show your support for public media by adding the Protect My Public Media Facebook Frame to your profile.