Nov 1, 2010

The public airwaves, public radio and the public good

In response to the Juan Willaims dust-up, Steve Coll, head of the New America Foundation, argues that NPR should get more funding from the government, not less, and the money should come from the commercial broadcasters that profit from use of the public airwaves.

From Coll's column in the Washington Post:
The episode matters in part because NPR's place in American journalism and society is changing. Its growing audience of 30 million listeners - attracted by the network's worldwide reporting, lengthy interviews and deep analysis - increasingly constitutes a distinctive and influential commons, comparable to the audience served by the news divisions of major broadcast networks during the 1960s and 1970s.

Altogether, the public broadcasting system - NPR; its quasi-rival on radio, American Public Media; the Public Broadcasting Service on television; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides them funding approved by Congress - reaches 98 percent of the American population. The system has achieved this penetration despite being comparatively starved of government-mandated investment. The United States spends about $1.40 per capita, or $420 million a year, on public and nonprofit media through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Britain spends about $87 per capita, according to an analysis by the advocacy and policy group Free Press. Canada, one of the most miserly industrialized democracies in this area, spends about $27 per capita.

No comments: