Sometime when a crisis occurs so does the solution. I think this convergence is happening right now for Public Radio and TV.
Just as States and Universities pull back their support, just as traditional supporters such as the Auto and Finance sector pull back, just as the public pulls back, just as stations cut staff and programming and just as advertising itself starts to fail, I see agreement emerge across the system on a menu of things to do that could transform the system back into being vital and hence supported by the American Public.
Become Vital to America - important is not good enough in these time
Fully Use the Network Effect to lower costs systemically and to attract Resources beyond Money
Speak only with one voice - speak as a "Whole" system
Become the News Power House that is possible if all the news resources are combined in ONE Network that is offered on ALL platforms. Fill the growing vacuum of news and context as the old system dies.
That PBS, NPR and the Stations Combine to offer a comprehensive news offering that includes TV and Radio and also the participation of local stations and their members
The emergent offering today would be NPR News, Plus Planet Money, Plus Frontline, Plus Bill Moyers plus an expanded News Hour Plus a local addition Plus a local citizen component
Become the agent for mobilizing the community to cope with the financial crisis. Do what President Obama urges, bring back local control and local action and reduce helplessness.
Replicate what KETC is doing in St Louis to connect the helping forces to each other and to the people and to connect people to help each other - help bring back the social capital of the nation
The emergent offering is the new CPB project to extend KETC's work to 30 markets where the crisis is worst and both TV AND Radio are involved
Become the main agency for helping American learn how best to use Social Media. There is no scaled trusted force that can help all parts of society - the young, small businesses, NGO's large institutions - to use Social Media well. Pub Media can become that agency
Some stations are already convening their local Social Media communities. These groups could become the seed of this new kind of school where the station acts as the trusted host.
This expands the entire idea of Educational TV and Radio
This opens up a whole new source of revenue
Use the full Network Effect
Create a Systems Helping Agency (A SWAT Team) taken from the best people in the system to help stations - who are stretched to the limit - use the network effect to do better on the web -and to use the network effect to reduce costs and increase resources. Stations cannot do this without help. The new has to be midwifed. Some call this a "coalition of the willing" - they are right - draw on the best and the most willing people.
Create one web network for all of Public Radio and TV that has national, regional and local features. Support this with a permanent facilitating structure like Visa International did for Visa
Assist regions in reducing costs by consolidating their support functions in a network - there is no valid reason in a network for each station to replicate the back office functions - this has been done in Alaska. Create network utilities that serve the stations who then focus on content and convening
Call on the Geeks of America to come to the aid of the system - A Kind of Peace Corps of Geeks for a more democratic America - there is a well spring of energy that we can tap into of talent that don't want to send money but will offer themselves to help. Just as we can have citizen journalism, we can have citizen resources - bring the members into the network
How to Start?We are ready - Set the Context and Ask for Help
We are ready:
Nearly all these points were made by Vivian Schiller in her historic speech to the IMA Conference. All of these points have also been circulating independently throughout the system. They are not surprises but are quickly becoming an emergent plan
Resistance will be minor. Support is widespread. There is intellectual convergence and readiness and most importantly there is leadership from NPR. The pain is also high. In the last 2 weeks, the financial strains have got a lot worse at Universities and states are announcing a major pull back from support and that it has become clear that the auto and finance sectors are not in a position to help anymore.
Set the Context: Be clear about what the stakes are:
It feels like 1940 in England or December 1941 in America. It's all about survival now and the divisions that had kept us apart can be healed.
Put our highest needs first as our agenda.
Ask them to help us not to put on Lawrence Welk or even Nature or Masterpiece Theatre but to be the agency of understanding and community energy in these terrible time. To be the place where people can find out that is really going on and how they can help each other get through this. To be the agency of realistic Hope. To be the place where they can act to make a difference
Speak with one Voice:
We are talking about a Network that includes NPR, PBS, CPB and all the stations - we have to speak as one for it is the "Whole" and not the parts where the power lies.
What we say and what we do in the next 2 months will determine everything.
Schiller's vision is timely and apt - you can see its power just by looking at these 3 examples.
The situation that confronts is is so complex that it is beyond the ken of the most intelligent of any of us.
The typical headline news item only makes us more helpless.
Only a broad and a deep effort to discover meaning can help. I think that the combined efforts of NPR, PBS, the stations and us the public using this new platform can do what no other news organization can do now - help us understand.
I think the new future for news is emerging just as your local paper, TV and Radio station dies and as their news model dies as well.
In this video, Bill Moyers interview Simon Johnson, former Senior Economist with the IMF.
Here is how the interview begins:
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.
The battle is joined
as they say — and here's the headline that framed it: "High Noon:
Geithner v. The American Oligarchs." The headline is in one of the most
informative new sites in the blogosphere called: baselinescenario.com.
Here's the quote that grabbed me:
"There comes a time in every economic crisis, or more
specifically, in every struggle to recover from a crisis, when someone
steps up to the podium to promise the policies that — they say — will
deliver you back to growth. The person has political support, a strong
track record, and every incentive to enter the history books. But one
nagging question remains. Can this person, your new economic
strategist, really break with the vested elites that got you into this
And here's the man who asked that question. Simon Johnson is
former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He now
teaches global economics and management at MIT's Sloan School of
Management and is a senior fellow of the Peterson Institute. He is
co-founder of that website I quoted — baselinescenario.com — where he
analyzes the global economic and financial crisis.
Welcome, Simon Johnson to the Journal.
SIMON JOHNSON: Nice to be here.
BILL MOYERS: What are you signaling with that headline, "Geithner vs. the American Oligarchs"?
I think I'm signaling something a little bit shocking to Americans, and
to myself, actually. Which is the situation we find ourselves in at
this moment, this week, is very strongly reminiscent of the situations
we've seen many times in other places.
But they're places we
don't like to think of ourselves as being similar to. They're emerging
markets. It's Russia or Indonesia or a Thailand type situation, or
Korea. That's not comfortable. America is different. America is
special. America is rich. And, yet, we've somehow find ourselves in the
grip of the same sort of crisis and the same sort of oligarchs.
Oligarchy is an un-American term, as you know. It means a government by
a small number of people. We don't like to think of ourselves that way.
SIMON JOHNSON: It's a way of governing. As you said. It
comes from, you know, a system they tried out in Greece and Athens from
time to time. And it was actually an antithesis to democracy in that
But, exactly what you said, it's a small group with a
lot of power. A lot of wealth. They don't necessarily - they're not
necessarily always the names, the household names that spring to mind,
in this kind of context. But they are the people who could pull the
strings. Who have the influence. Who call the shots.
Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the
Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so
crucial to the survival of American democracy?
I don't know. I hope they don't trump it. But the signs that I see this
week, the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way
they're treated by certain Congressional committees, it makes me feel