Public Media At Risk, Guest Post by Vincent Stehle
Remember the email chain letter that used to circulate warning of impending plans to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS? For years it was regarded as a Snopes-worthy urban legend. At the time, there was no continuing threat to cut funds for public broadcasting.
Well, it’s time to bring the chain letter back.
It seems that every day there is a new attack on public broadcasting; the most recent coming from conservative provocateur, James O’Keefe, in an Ambush video of NPR fund raiser Ron Schiller, who quickly resigned for making inappropriate comments. And within hours, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation) resigned in the
wake of her namesake’s gaffe.
Already the House of Representatives has voted to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports local public radio and television stations nationwide. The Obama Administration has proposed a slight increase in funding for CPB. But really, the debate should not be between deep cuts and holding steady. Public broadcasting serves a large and growing role in providing a broad range of information needs, including news and public affairs programming like Morning Edition and The News Hour, educational programs like Nova and cultural programming, including jazz and classical radio.
All of this and more is at risk at a time when demand for public media is growing and the service it provides is a bedrock of informed debate in our polarized political landscape.
The current political reality suggests that there will be deep cuts in government spending of all types. And so the temptation will arise to seek a compromise between deep cuts and the status quo.
But it is precisely when some are calling for cuts to public broadcasting that supporters should demand greater support for this vital resource.
A new campaign called 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting seeks to organize public support for public broadcasting. The campaign claims that more than half of all Americans experience some form of public media – on radio or television, through the Internet or via podcast – each week. This effort seeks to channel the political power of the enormous audience for public media. It’s a good place to start.
Vince Stehle is a philanthropic consultant and a member of the Board of Directors of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media. This post is adapted from a column, “Sending the Wrong Signal” over at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, where Vince is a regular columnist.