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Filmmaker Ken Burns: Cuts to Public Broadcasting Would Do 'Irrevocable Damage'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As budget negotiations continue in an effort to avert a looming government shutdown, award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns warned Wednesday that proposed cuts to federal funding for public broadcasting would be “devastating,” not just for filmmakers, but for all Americans.

“[CPB and the National Endowment for the Humanities] are five-decades-old institutions that have a way of stitching the country together in ways that people may not immediately perceive if they are just arguing in the rhetoric of hot politics,” Burns told ABC News.

Democrats have accused Republicans of demanding cuts to very small portions of the federal budget, including slashing funding for public broadcasting. In February, the House passed a resolution prohibiting any federal funding for CPB, which received $430 million from Congress this year.

“This has consequences. There are lots of things that public broadcasting, public media does, that can’t be done anywhere else. And you can begin with my films,” explained Burns, whose documentaries include The Civil War, The National Parks and Baseball.

“Every single film that I’ve made would not have been made in the marketplace. It took the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the help of the National Endowment for the Humanities to have them made. I would hope that our legislators would really seriously consider the kind of repercussions this means for education, because we’re so devoted to not just their broadcast, but their afterlife in schools, that they could do irrevocable damage when we’re very concerned about our status in the world.”

Burns was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to announce the launch of millions of newly digitized Civil War records from the National Archives, which are now available online for the first time through

In the event that the government does shut down and the National Archives do close, historians may not be totally out of luck. The newly digitized Civil War archives available on will be free for the general public to access for one week beginning Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

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