The Role of Public Media

Right-wing politicians in Washington are trying to rob NPR and PBS of their funding in hopes to save the country a few million dollars–a price tag that has not costed the U.S. taxpayers nearly as much money as, for example, the War in Afghanistan or Bush Era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Interestingly enough, this call to de-fund NPR and PBS extends beyond the need to cut such a small part of the nation’s budget. The attack has been couched in explicit dialogue about the “liberal” and “biased” reporting from these stations despite the studies done by FAIR that speak otherwise–studies that show publicly funded media just as elitist as its mainstream, private counterparts!

What does this mean for the American public? It means we might need to improve our understanding of publicly funded media before we decide to wipe it off from the face of news gathering altogether. It reminds me of the health care debate–we got rid of the public option when a few people were able to convince us it was not perfect in its blueprint form. So, we ended up gutting the health care bill that now continues to legitimize the dominant role of the health care insurance industry. Let’s not continue to legitimize the mainstream corporate news industry, either!

I was in Germany last semester and learned about their dual media system, which is divided into two parts: the private system and “öffentlich-rechtlich” media (public right’s media). This allows the German taxpayers to fund half of their media system and have access to both kinds of media systems. While German media conglomerates have continued to fight this legal framework, it has at least provided the country with more solid ground by offering a more balanced media system.

Perhaps using Germany’s model as an example we could mold for the U.S.–creating a system that puts more limits and regulations on big media and provides more public funding for various kinds of not-for-profit/non-corporate/public media outlets–would provide a greater role for journalists by giving us a wider spectrum of analysis, commentary and newsgathering to choose from!

If only, if only….


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