As the principals in Public radio fuss about whether they can trust the other as they struggle to get behind the web as a group, I thought it may help if we heard from the listener. Who of course cares not a fig for our internal squabbles. Who knows what they want. Who would never forgive us if we allowed our own fears to destroy what they love and hold dear.
So how are you paying for what you are getting? Or are you figuring our how not to? Or are you rationalizing through ‘karmic bartering’?”
I don’t have any WAY to pay for it. That’s a big problem the with the current model: There’s a complete disconnect between payments and services provided in the public radio model! I contribute money to local NPR stations which support programs I DON’T listen to and then I listen for FREE to programs from other stations I’ve never paid a cent for. It’s insane. It’s like buying tickets to Celtics games so you can go to Boston Chamber Music Society concerts for free.
I recently wrote to the producers of a radio show I listen to in Australia (ABC Radio National’s “The Night Air”) telling them how much I like their show, and offering to make a contribution. Predictably, they thought the whole idea was silly (it’s paid for by the Australian taxpayers). I didn’t expect otherwise but it was just my way of telling them how much I liked their show.
For years I’ve been trying to convince WBUR and WGBH to set their membership fees at a level that would ensure an adequate stream of revenue to avoid the frequent whine-a-thon begging spasms that interrupt their regular programming. I suggested that they could start by offering members the perk of being able to listen to their regular programming via streaming audio sans-pledge-drivel.
So yes, I agree with the Paul Marszalek proposal to offer podcasts and archive shows for free to members and charge a fee for others. The ONLY problem with that is the one I mentioned earlier which is that there’s no good, safe, simple, way to exchange small quantities of money over the internet. But a consortium of public radio stations could put something together to make that easier. They won’t, of course, because that would mean embracing the Internet to a degree that they are not comfortable with.
The current system is irrational. People who like ROS are totally dependent on obscure offers of support, random acts of corporate generosity, complicated deals between WGBH and the University of Massachusetts, and other random whims. Unlike the real world, in the world of public radio there is no relationship between the utilization or preference for a product or service and the recompence those who are served by it are able or required to provide. The system has always suffered from this flaw but the new wrinkle is the internet.
If you are a concerned listener tell us what you think is the better way to finance public radio. If you see good idea on this topic - please let me know.