Public Media – To Fund Or Not to Fund

What was it, really?  The perception of bias, real or imagined, or a desire to get rid of NPR, or a pragmatic desire to cut spending – and the CPB got in the path?

All of the above…. and then some.

It is VERY likely that we will lose most, if not all, federal funding in the next two years.  Every sign points in that direction.  That means a rewrite of what public radio is, and how it’s funded.  If in the next few years conservatives have their way, the non-comm band (estabished in 1941) will be opened up to all interests, and the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which established public funding via the CPB, will be seen as irrelevant and unnecessary.

The intent of federally-funded public broadcasting in the Public Broadcasting Act was to make “telecommications services available to all citizens of the United States.” (47 U.S.C. 396).  Today, over 99% of Americans own a TV and over 95% have access to the Internet.  The core argument is that the Corporation’s mission of ensuring universal access has been fulfilled and the government-funded broadcasting is completely unnecessary.  H.R. 5538 would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to eliminate federal funding for the CPB.  President Obama’s own bipartisan debt commission proposed ending subsidies to public broadcasting.

There is a strong argument to be made that if public radio and TV offers programming people want, it can get sponsors like everyone else and stand on its own.  The base sentiment is that there is absolutely no reason that the taxpayers should be subsidizing media, unless they choose to do so through their own private donations.

The future of public mass-media companies will be based not on the technologies we have in existence today, but rather on evolving convergent  technologies.  What really is public media? Don’t blogs and facebook and twitter and things unseen represent that which the government first envisioned in making “telecommications services available to all citizens of the United States?”

Funding for public mass-media, one that is free of direct governmental and/or commercial influence, will likely include advertising, sponsorship and direct public subsidies — although the uses that may be made of the latter will likely need to be restricted in order to reduce the risk of this subsidy being abused to influence programming.

The recent developments concerning NPR have only exacerbated the problem.

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Filed under News & Notes, Radio News

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