James Morgese, general manager of KUED, pointed to a recent Office of Management and Budget study that reported, "It's not likely that public broadcasting can operate without some kind of government support."
The Trump administration, unveiling its first budget plan early Thursday, proposes to "zero out" funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2018, according to OMB director Mick Mulvaney.
"The policy is, we're ending federal involvement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," Mulvaney told Broadcasting & Cable.
Trump's budget also proposes eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
Patrick Butler, the president and CEO of America's Public Television Stations, issued a statement, saying the plan "defies the will of the American people" — and there's data to back him up.
In January, a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican and Democratic pollsters found 73 percent of Americans oppose eliminating federal funding for PBS, and 66 percent of those who voted for Trump favored maintaining or increasing federal funding.
And 83 percent of voters, including 70 percent of those who voted for Trump, said they would tell their elected representatives to find other places to cut the budget.
CPB funding is less than a drop in the federal budget bucket.
"You're not going to slay the deficit dragon by doing away with public broadcasting," said Morgese.
In 2016, the CPB received $455 million in federal funds — about 0.001 percent of the $3.9 trillion budget.
"For about $1.35 a citizen a year, we provide an extraordinary service," said PBS President Paula Kerger.
In 2016, KUED received $1,702,498 from CPB — 18.96 percent of its budget.
"It's not as if we've got 18 percent fat," Morgese said.
The CPB sent $259,447 to KUER in 2016, 6 percent of the station's budget.
"There's a reason they're subsidized more — they're broadcasting to children," Greene said. "It's a whole different ballgame."
The loss of federal funds would result in "a big reduction in the services," said Morgese. "And we're more than just 'Masterpiece' and 'Downton Abbey.' We're providing a lot of educational content 24 hours a day."
KUED, in concert with PBS, recently launched a 24/7 kids educational channel, "and we're not asking for any more to do that," Morgese said.
The loss of federal funds would mean layoffs, cutbacks and reduced educational/children's programming.
"If we go away, how will those services continue to be delivered to schools?" Morgese said.
As for KUER, which broadcasts NPR and other public radio programming, "I honestly don't think listeners would hear a difference," Greene said. "We'd have to scramble to tighten things up a bit and hope that, once listeners really knew that we didn't have any [federal] support, that they would increase their gifts."
The elimination of federal funding would also hit other Utah stations. KBYU-Channel 11 received $5,3 million in CPB funds in 2015 (the most recent year for which numbers are available) — 10 percent of the station's operating expenses and capital outlays.
(CPB grants are based on a matching-funds formula, and BYU Broadcasting receives support from BYU and the LDS Church as well as private donors. In 2015, it reported $28.7 million in income from foundations and nonprofits.)
KUEN-Channel 9 received $3.6 million in 2016; about 9 percent of its budget.KCPW FM-88.3 received $78,968 from the CPB in 2016 — about 12 percent of its budget. For the first time since 2012, KRCL FM-90.9 will receive CPB funding in August — about 10 percent of its budget, according to general manager Vicki Mann. But it may be short-lived. "We won't be thrilled about losing the CPB money, but we've done without it before," she said.
The CPB distributed 95 percent of its $455 million in federal funds to 1,500 public TV and radio stations. It's 15 percent of the stations' overall operating budgets, but that's an aggregate number. For some stations, "particularly in rural parts of the country," the CPB money is 50 percent of their budget, according to Kerger. And it's doubtful any station could survive a 50 percent cut.
"You're going to lose universal access" to PBS, Moregese said. "The smaller stations will not survive. Then for the remainder of us, the costs will go up. So it would start to snowball."
There are no specifics in Trump's budget proposal about privatizing the CPB.
"If they mean there's no reason we don't run public television and radio like commercial radio and television, well, I beg to differ," Greene said. "The Public Broadcasting Act specifically segregated these places on the dial for radio and television to broadcast things that didn't have to compete with commercial media. And selling ads."
There's speculation privatization would mean ads indistinguishable from those on commercial stations.
But it's not as easy as the administration simply issuing an order.
"Right now, we're prohibited by law from doing advertising," Greene said. "That would have to be changed."
"If you cut the money and keep all the regulations in place, we certainly can't make up the difference," Morgese said.
Public broadcasters are already lobbying against the proposal as the U.S. House and Senate prepare their own spending plans.
"We work very hard … talking to legislators about the importance of federal funding," Kerger said.
"This is not an executive order when [Trump] can just sign us away," Morgese said. "We're in legislation, and it takes a while to undo law. In the meantime, we're gearing up for a difficult negotiation."
KUER's former GM remains optimistic.
"This seems to come around at least once a decade," said Greene, who spent more than 28 years at KUER. "I really don't think this will succeed."