“There was a real sense of a kind of moral corruption around the media”
December 9, 2017 9:22 AM   Subscribe

“This means there's no commercial justification anymore for producing broad generalist news packages. It means we can expect private sector media to narrowly target people who are well-off and well-educated, because they are the ones who are the most interested in news, the ones most able to pay subscription costs, and the ones advertisers most want to reach. That's not great for democracy: We can expect to see a growing gap in political knowledge and participation.” PUBLIC BROADCASTING: ITS PAST AND ITS FUTURE - the argument for public funding of news media.
posted by The Whelk (9 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Public broadcasters] were tasked with helping to build and advance a sense of national identity and culture, and with supporting social cohesion.
I haven't finished it yet, but this of all things is what I think modern societies need to acknowledge most: national identity and culture seem to just naturally become fascistic when they go to seed. Intensive propaganda efforts on your own citizens seem unavoidable. These don't have to be evil so much as we just need people to believe in the enlightenment and that people who you don't like don't deserve to be exterminated.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:33 AM on December 9, 2017 [10 favorites]


Intensive propaganda efforts on your own citizens seem unavoidable. These don't have to be evil so much as we just need people to believe in the enlightenment and that people who you don't like don't deserve to be exterminated.

I dispute the use of the word propaganda as, to my thinking at least, it immediately defines the information in question as disinformation to at least some degree. And frankly, things are confusing enough these days, thank you. That said, I'm also of the thinking that so-called objectivity is at best a guiding notion, always outside of anyone's full grasp.

But further, and this is a big further, I do wish every American could spend a chunk of time in a country that had a functional national broadcaster. Not a user supported option such as PBS that yes, does tend to get supported by the well-off, the well-educated, but something along the lines of the CBC (Canada), the BBC (UK), the RTE (Ireland) which are the three I've had good experience with. None of them are perfect. All of them have been sullied in one way or other over time. But all of them are magnitudes better than anything I've ever gotten from an American option in terms of working from a mandate that is transparently concerned with keeping the nation informed about its affairs, crucial and otherwise.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on December 9, 2017 [18 favorites]


working from a mandate that is transparently concerned with keeping the nation informed about its affairs, crucial and otherwise.

as opposed to scoring ratings, satisfying advertisers, putting dividends into shareholders pockets.
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on December 9, 2017 [9 favorites]


The people who will be served well in a global market include English speakers, the affluent and the educated. Less well served will be minority linguistic and racial groups, people living outside large metropolitan areas and the poor. Public broadcasters can't focus exclusively on those latter groups, but they need to put them at the center of their work. Rather than following the market, public broadcasters need to program against it, with a focus on providing public service value.
This is a good article.
posted by biogeo at 9:59 AM on December 9, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm currently working in Germany, which finances a robust public media through a tax on households that comes to approximately twenty dollars a month. An American colleague was complaining about it, and I responded "would you pay twenty dollars a month at home to have no Fox News?"

Among many advantages, German public television runs the evening news during halftime of national team and Champions League games that it televises instead of inane commentary or endless advertising.
posted by sy at 10:00 AM on December 9, 2017 [9 favorites]


I know losing net neutrality would kill this in the states, but internet speeds seem fast enough these days that someone could potentially make their own streaming television studio broadcasting in Standard Definition to 720p.

Honestly, it still seems like the best option to me, considering I grew up with rules about how tall a personal antennae could be for broadcasting your own radio. Obviously, losing net neutrality will be the new old antennae law that prevents people from being able to participate without being a business with a lot of capital backing it.

However, with internet being finally fast enough for streaming video, it's strange to me that no one has tried to put together their own equivalent of a UHF station online. (OSI 74 is somewhat like what I'm talking about, but not exact.)

*sigh

If anyone needs me I'm going to be watching my VHS copy of UHF while crying at the state of things a lot.

---

EDIT: I haven't finished it yet, but this of all things is what I think modern societies need to acknowledge most: national identity and culture seem to just naturally become fascistic when they go to seed. Intensive propaganda efforts on your own citizens seem unavoidable.

Which is why independent, local news sources are really important. You can still fund lots of small, independent groups nationally.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:05 AM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


I co-wrote one of the papers in this series and traced how much of the current programming choices can be traced back to the audience research that was conducted in the early 80s. It touches on many of the same points Sue makes, and starts with a provocative question: What if we took all $445 million that Congress allocates to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and spent it all on kids? Here’s one possibility: You’d end up with some of the most diverse, beloved and effective programming in media, and it would all be aimed at making better Americans from the ground up.

In fact, it’s already happening. “Sesame Street” sent Julia, an autistic muppet, to visit the U.S. Congress. And, in South Africa and Nigeria, Kami is a child muppet with HIV. A real child with osteogenesis imperfecta, Tarah Schaeffer, demonstrated the parts of her wheelchair on the show. The child muppet Alex has a parent in prison. Zari, a girl muppet, promotes the visibility and dignity of little girls in Afghanistan’s “Sesame Street.” And when Mr. Hooper died, Big Bird grieved on the air.

These are experimental programming choices and they serve civic education to, about and for groups that are not regarded as a lucrative base for sales. They are important and they are not necessarily marketable, but they provide media service to all people and a more inclusive, democratic model of society.

Serving children from America’s poor, immigrant or minority communities gets to the core of public media’s mission -- but it it is nearly the inverse of the audience and business strategy that public media has pursued since the 1980s. Public media’s quest for sustainability has driven it far from its original purpose and into the pursuit of a white, wealthy, educated and urban audience that doesn’t reflect America -- and it undermines the very point of having public media.

And yet, when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is at risk of Congressional budget cuts, Mr. Rogers and Elmo have been its most effective lobbyists -- but their efforts, which play on the civic power of children’s television programming, have ultimately supported drive-time news programs and other spending for adults.

Our paper details why and how that could change, and how that would help fulfill public media’s original mission, not yet accomplished.

We spent months on the paper and it was very enjoyable to write and think about the history.
posted by melodykramer at 5:57 PM on December 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


Where Public Radio Went Wrong , by (Mefi's Own Melodykramer)
posted by The Whelk at 11:02 PM on December 10, 2017


A good article - bringing together many ideas that rarely meet.

Re: The UK and BBC - the "market-centered approach" has been dominant at the BBC for the last 20-ish years.
The democracy argument for public broadcasting was rarely made by the BBC (both internally or externally) - "the market" has been internalised by many.

This has meant a reduction in funds to unfashionable local services that reach the marginalised, older, and less educated - I'd argue that this contributed to the divisive atmosphere that led to Brexit.

But the Brexit vote appears to have been a wake-up call... now:

"BBC to scrap £10m cuts to local radio, says Lord Hall"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41919796

With three mentions of democracy (and one "fake news") in the speech:
"Expressions of our communities have never been more important - for our sense of self and our democracy. That’s what I want us to capture - I want to hear the sound of England as it changes."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/speeches/2017/tony-hall-local-radio
posted by Speculatist at 1:06 PM on December 11, 2017


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