On the surface the attack on Pub Media is based on the idea that the state should not be in the broadcasting business and that this is especially true if the broadcaster is aligned to one point of view.
There is a point to this. Imagine my fellow Pub Media fans if Fox was to now get government funding - you too might go nuts!
But I think that the reason for this attack now is deeper than that.
And I think that the attack is based on the most human of responses. When something new and true and so dangerous arrives on the scene - we laugh at it. But as the new and the true and so the threat to the status quo gets its feet, the power people in the status quo get an insight.
They can tell at a cellular level that this new thing could be their doom. And their response?
In the last 5 years, Public Radio and Public TV have started to find a new role for themselves and it is this new role that scares THEM.
This role of course is a Public Service Media organization that gives people who have no voice a voice in the issues that concern them.
CPB is funding a number of experiments that are having results in this key area of informing more than the news cycle and giving people a say. None of this is done in commercial media.
For instance NPR is running a project called Argo - that has picked a number of issues that mean a lot to us the public and created nodes that roll up into a national network - so for instance WBUR in Boston is hosting a local/national conversation about health and healthcare. Or KPBS in San Diego is convening a discussion about the issues of being a military base Town. Or KPCC in southern CA is doing this on Immigration.
All of this is largely web based - so the stations are also learning how to expand their horizon beyond the "air" and broadcasting.
There are 12 stations involved and the point is to find out how best to do this - to become a rich centre of information outside the news cycle that can be both local and a national resource. Where the public can find the best information and the best conversation about things that concern them. AND SO be truly informed and SO have a real say.
The new is full of music labels complaining. Not only about piracy but of the tight grip just a few large outlets have on what gets played and the costs of getting air. Well guess which media outlet gives the Indie labels the best opportunity for air at the least cost? NPR Music! Here is how the Hollywood Reporter ran this story. This idea came directly out of the work done back in 2005/6 by all the stations to find a starting point for offering the music audience a place based on their taste and their time rather than simply playing what the station wanted. The music audience and the musician's interests are well served here. Both sides win. This does not happen on commercial media where the interests of the station those that own it rule.
CPB has also backed TV stations like KETC in St Louis who have been exploring how to put the public onto TV and how to offer the public a safe place to have the conversations that are otherwise impossible in America today.
Now known as the Nine Network for Public Media, KETC has a media school, the Nine Academy, that is turning out hundreds of citizen videographers,. Giving the people the tools to have a voice of their own.
In 2009 KETC hosted a national project involving more than 30 markets worst hit by the housing crisis to learn how each local TV and Radio stations could work together to offer people help that they could trust. In each market the stations worked to bring together w ide ranges of resources into local networks of trusted help. This is all but impossible for a commercial station.
In 2010 KETC has been experimenting in how to host a year long "Conversation" about an explosive topic that normally collapses into rhetoric - Immigration. Most of the content is local and much of it made by grads of KETC's school. KETC is learning how to offer people a civil place to hod string views and how to switch the power from the station to the people. Impossible for a commercial station.
This year KETC is co managing a project that will also be nation and is highly controversial - On how we might improve our schools.
What THEY fear the most is that this kind of new role for Public Radio and TV may end up with
- You being better informed - you will have escaped the sound bite world and in music the play list that THEY want
- You will be better engaged - because you will have the real opportunity to have your voice heard and you will have learned the skills to do this well
- You and your local community will have more power to change things
THIS is what THEY fear.
We may feel that we could and should have made more progress - but THEY can see it.
They care not about Morning Edition, Car Talk or Masterpiece Theatre.
They do care that you may become more informed and more empowered. Public Media is on track to pull this of and so must be stopped.
I don't see this as a Left or Right Issue. It is do you want to be part of the solution or be passive?
And who are THEY? Follow the money.