Who Should Do What
Who Should Do What
To carry out the proposals in this paper, the organizations involved will need to undertake specific tasks. Here is a plan of action for stakeholders.
Leaders of public media at the national and local level face the most important task: to relinquish the status quo and embrace a new definition of public media that is more local, more inclusive and more interactive. Only public media leaders can convince government and philanthropic supporters that they have a new vision worthy of their investment.
This begins with a transformation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting into the Corporation for Public Media (CPM). It encompasses a new agreement with Congress on the funding mechanism in the Public Broadcasting Act. It includes playing a proactive role in the establishment of national broadband policy and initiating efforts to make public media more efficient. It also means welcoming new players under the public media umbrella, including non-profits providing news, information and community service exclusively in the digital space.
At the local level, public media leaders should develop journalistic capacity by obtaining the necessary funding and hiring journalists who bring digital skills, diversity and content expertise. They should support journalists with strengthened editorial oversight and professional development opportunities. They should create a culture that supports independent, fearless journalism that serves their communities.
Local public media leaders should move full force into digital media and acquire the necessary expertise and resources. They should participate in the creation of the Public Media Platform and foster new relationships with their communities through resources such as Public Insight Network. They should redirect funding from outmoded broadcast infrastructure into digital technology. They should develop metrics to measure progress in creating community.
Local public media leaders should establish close and beneficial ties to their communities. This is essential to developing the level of financial support that will be necessary to sustain stronger local operations. University and other institutional licensees should move to establish community boards to create local support. Local public media leaders should develop partnerships with other public media entities, with non-profit and for-profit journalism enterprises and with journalism schools.
Public television leaders should determine what role they can play in meeting the information needs of their communities. They should convene, under CPM auspices, a working group similar to public radio’s Grow the Audience project, to assess options and decide on a plan of action.
At the national level, CPM should lead the transformation by creating new standards and new incentives. It should continue seeding worthwhile projects such as the Local Journalism Centers and the Public Media Corps. It should work cooperatively with Congress to redefine public media for the 21st century. NPR and PBS should build on their progress in making digital tools available to local stations and to the public. They should work to strengthen local stations as sources of news and information for their communities and help build journalism capacity at the local level. They also should continue to improve and strengthen news and information programming at the national level to serve as a model and a beacon.
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission should adopt broadband policies that recognize public media’s unique place in our democracy. Policies could include a guarantee of public media access to broadband delivery systems and advantageous rates for streaming video and audio. The FCC should adopt policies that ease station acquisition, mergers and operating agreements. The FCC should clarify the status of public service operating agreements to make it easier for one organization to run several outlets. The FCC should allow public television stations to lease excess digital capacity and clear public radio stations to make use of excess digital capacity. If the FCC decides to redirect some of the fees it collects to support the information needs of communities, it should consider establishing a fund, similar to Public Radio Capital, to support station acquisition.
Congress should move swiftly to update the Public Broadcasting Act for the 21st century. It should change the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to the Corporation for Public Media and amend the funding allocations to reflect digital reality. It should appropriate additional monies and enact appropriate laws to enable public radio and television to participate fully in the drive for universal broadband. It should amend copyright law to enable public media to realize its potential in the digital space. It should fund the creation of a national Public Media Corps to promote digital literacy.
Major foundations should create a fund to seed the ambitious goal of adding more journalists to local public media. Whether the initial goal is 1,000 journalists across the country or 4,000 in the top 25 markets, such an investment would be in keeping with the history of generous philanthropic support for public broadcasting at another transformative time. Likewise, local and regional foundations should invest in public media as one of the pillars of connection and civil discourse in their communities.
Universities and Journalism Schools
As license-holders of 47 percent of public radio and television stations, universities are in a powerful position to support change. Universities should recognize the importance of public media in their communities and allow the establishment of community boards to garner resources for local stations. Universities should forge ties between stations and journalism programs, where they exist on campus. University stations can offer internships and a lab experience for students practicing their journalism skills. Journalism schools should incorporate public media experience into their programs and contribute research and programming skills.