At a time when many public broadcasters are being told to reduce their dependence on public money and find new forms of revenue through new subscriptions and grants, Maryland Public Television could be getting more money from the state of Maryland under a bill pending in Annapolis.
The legislation would put the state on the hook to make up any funds lost to MPT by changes in the federal budget.
What that means is that if President Donald Trump's controversial call to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were to take effect, Maryland would be giving MPT $3 million to replace it – the sum that MPT is scheduled to receive from the federal government through the CPB.
The commitment appears to be open ended. It's not just for one year.
The bill says: "… requiring, if certain federal funds are reduced in a fiscal year, the Governor to include a certain appropriation in the next fiscal year …"
"Our understanding is the intent of the state bill is to make up for any federal funding gap for the foreseeable future," Larry Unger, president of MPT, wrote in an email to The Sun in response to questions about the bill.
State Sen. Nancy King, a Montgomery County Democrat, sponsor of the bill, did not respond to requests the last two weeks for clarification of her legislation.
There is also an annual increase in the bill for MPT tied to the percentage increase in general funds year to year for the state. General funds are those that the governor controls.
The bill is titled "Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission - Recording and Distribution During Legislative Session – Funding."
But it appears that another part of the bill may have been lost in committee: It called on the state to give MPT $500,000 in the coming fiscal year to stream and distribute coverage of floor debates during the last two weeks of the legislative sessions.
Despite the title, far more money is at stake in making up for federal cuts than would have been spent on streaming.