The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will release a new policy paper, “Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive,” by Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Missouri, on December 8th.
The conversation about the future shape of public media has picked up a lot of steam lately. In fact, with news headlines this fall bringing increased attention and public scrutiny to one of public media’s most recognizable brands and year-long inquiries at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission preparing to report their findings on the current state of media policy in the United States, the conversation has all the hallmarks of becoming a raging public debate.
Notable recent developments in this debate: Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, called for a fresh look at U.S. media policy and more funding for public media in articles published recently in the Washington Post (”Why Fox News Should Help Fund NPR“) and the Columbia Journalism Review (”Reboot“). Syndicated columnist George Will has weighed in on the subject of NPR funding (or defunding). Republican members of Congress tried to attach an amendment to defund NPR to an unrelated House bill last week but the attempt was voted down, 239-171.
The discussion about the future of public media has been taking place within communities of interest surrounding public broadcasting, public access television and community media and led by media practitioners, executives and thought leaders such as Patricia Aufderheide and Jessica Clark at American University’s Center for Social Media, Ellen Goodman at Rutgers University Law School, and the leadership of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its affiliates. Now, it is reaching a broader audience. This is a good thing.
As the Knight Commission noted in its report, Informing Communities, “It is important for public policy in the digital age to play a more determined role in enhancing the performance of public broadcasting in local news.” The important role that public media already play in the broader U.S. media ecosystem, and the potential to enhance that role to serve the information needs of local communities as private sector journalistic entities are contracting or closing altogether, is why the Commission recommended that government should “increase support for public service media aimed at meeting community information needs.” The Knight Commission went on to say that government and private donors ”should condition their support of public media on its reform.”
“Rethinking Public Media,” a new policy paper by Barbara Cochran, presents a set of strategies to bring about the kinds of reforms needed for public media to become more local, more inclusive, more interactive and to better serve their communities. The paper is set for release on December 8th. This is the third white paper in a series designed to explore concrete strategies for implementing the recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.