House (Finally) Passes Art-Boosting Funding Bill Including Public Broadcasting

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Public broadcasting and the wider arts world could get a nice boost in the 2023 fiscal year after a new bill passed Congress last week. Fully expecting to be signed off by the President, it is a nice budget-booster for some cornerstone arts and entertainment programs. Brandon Blake, entertainment attorney for Blake & Wang P.A, has more details for us.

Senate and Congress Approval

The bill passed with a 225-201 through Congress, only one day after passing the Senate at a 68-29 bipartisan vote. Nine House Republicans joined Democrat voters to push the bill through: Rodney Davis and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Chris Jacobs and John Katko of New York, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Steve Womack of Arkansas, and Fred Upton of Michigan.

It next heads to the President for his signature, which he has already confirmed will be forthcoming, and should be cleared for the 2023 fiscal year. There is lots of pork to go around, but also some good stuff, and any arts funding these days is welcomed.

The bill, in addition to some non-related governmental funding, will see increased funding for the National Endowments for both the Arts and Humanities, bringing their budgets to an all-time high of $207M. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will also see a $10M increase, bringing the total to $535M, but only for the 2025 fiscal year due to its advance appropriations cycle. A further $60M for ‘interconnection technology’, $56M for a next-gen warning system, and $31M for the Ready to Learn program is also included.

The Tech Question Evaded

However, a critical question affecting the entertainment industry was left unaddressed by the new bill, after some heavyweight threats through lobbying from Meta earlier this year. The issue? An allowance for broadcast stations (and newspapers) to jointly negotiate with tech platforms over their content. However, there was an extra nod to antitrust enforcement through a bill to increase merger filing fees. The antitrust bills we’ve seen clear congressional committees, however, failed to make it into the final agreement. Doubtless this was done to streamline the issue, given the other funding issues hanging on the bill.

Antitrust matters, however, alongside the niggling issues of Big Tech’s intrusion into the entertainment sector, have both become themes we’ve seen in the industry through the last year. It’s highly likely we will see these matters, and the evolution of some copyright laws, hit the courts through the 2023-2025 fiscal years, as the new face of the entertainment industry and some sticky issues raised by the streaming boom require adoption in legislation to match them.

While it’s nice to see the art sectors get an increase in long-term funding from the government, it would be nice to see some more closely focused bills tabled that don’t have other, messy legislative decision hinged onto the same framework to muddy the issues. That, however, will have to be a thought for another year as the Government kicks back for its holiday break.

Kevin Peter