ALL things considered, the budget news for public broadcasting may not be as bad as Center for Public Broadcasting (CPB) officials had feared.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia and other GOP revolutionaries have softened their vow to end all federal spending on public broadcasting. They may settle for slashing CPB's $285-million federal payment instead.
For instance, they are considering moving public stations that are financially stable off government funding while putting money toward stations that need it most: small rural ones and those just starting out.
''I am not fixed in concrete,'' Gingrich said at a press conference late last week. ''If the real problem is small, rural stations, maybe part of the answer is to give the money directly to small, rural stations.''
CPB's $285 million in federal funds represents 14 percent of the public-broadcasting industry's total income. CPB distributes the money to more than 1,000 stations and groups, including the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.
The CPB is facing budget cuts as part of the Republicans' vow, under its ''Contract With America,'' to achieve a balanced budget. But some witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing last week voiced objections to funding based on CPB programming policies and what they perceive to be ''poor-mouthing'' tactics in CPB's efforts to continue to receive government funding.
Robert Knight, of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based conservative group, said that his research on CPB's programming revealed anti-family and anti-religious messages.