Breaking the Box

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A call to action for the public interest and public broadcasting communities

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  • Breaking the Box

    1. 1. Timothy Karr Campaign Director Free Press www.freepress.net Breaking the Box: Putting the Public Back in Public Media
    2. 2. Why public media matters “ Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” President James Madison, August 1822 "There is a great chasm between those of us in the business and those who depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We treat them too much like audiences and not enough like citizens. They are invited to look through the window, but too infrequently to participate and make public broadcasting public." Bill Moyers, May 2005
    3. 3. A quick review <ul><li>Encourage the growth of public media. </li></ul><ul><li>Foster programming that involves creative risks. </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that programming serves the needs of unserved and underserved audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>See that public media is a valuable resource for addressing national concerns and local problems </li></ul><ul><li>Guarantee that all citizens have access to these services. </li></ul>The law that governs modern public media was passed in 1967. It now falls under the Communications Act, which includes a “Declaration of Policy” stating that it is in the public interest that Congress:
    4. 4. 40 years later … <ul><li>Compared to commercial TV, Americans consider public TV and radio programming the most trustworthy and objective. </li></ul>And gained a massive audience: <ul><li>In a week, 81.6 million people tune their sets to PBS </li></ul><ul><li>and NPR reaches more than 25 million listeners </li></ul>Since 1967, public broadcasting has succeeded meeting many, but not all, of these public interest goals. It has certainly won the favor of its viewers:
    5. 5. Money well spent … <ul><li>82% believe that funding given to PBS from gov’t, corporations and individuals is “money well spent.” </li></ul><ul><li>51% said that federal funding for public broadcasting is “too little.” </li></ul><ul><li>American said they consider PBS the second best use of tax dollars, ranking below only military defense. </li></ul>The annual tax burden for public media is $1.70 per person, among the lowest per capita funding in the industrialized world A 2005 Roper Poll found that Americans overwhelmingly support the concept of funding public media with tax dollars:
    6. 6. … and worth fighting for In 2005, when a Republican-controlled House threatened to slash funding for all public media, We organized more than a million Americans to email and call Congress to demand full funding Funding was restored within weeks We marched on Capitol Hill, and at a public rally starring Sen. Hilary Clinton, Rep. Ed Markey, Maya, Miguel and Clifford the Big Red Dog, we delivered a million petitions to our elected representatives
    7. 7. … and worth fighting for When the conservative chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting attempted to subject all programming to a political litmus test, We demanded that the agency’s Inspector General conduct a full investigation, which revealed that he had abused his position to serve a partisan agenda. We delivered to his office more than 100,000 letters calling for his ouster. He was forced out by the end of the year
    8. 8. … and worth fighting for, but In 2006 and 2007 the White House proposed drastic cuts to public broadcasting. And we organized millions more to pressure Congress to restore funding. Rushing to defend against threats to public media has become a kind of annual routine for the public interest community … … but we’re getting tired of short term fixes.
    9. 9. So, what’s the problem? <ul><li>Public media is underfunded: </li></ul><ul><li>Public media programming is under assault: </li></ul>Clearly there is a groundswell of public support for the traditional notion of public broadcasting. But as this public broadcasting enters its fifth decade, cracks in the system are beginning to show. $350 million = White House CPB recommendation $668 million = White House earmark for propaganda CPB =“heat shield” between programming and politicians CPB Management = Seasoned Partisans = Agenda?
    10. 10. So, what’s the problem? The existing funding system can't face up to the challenges or meet the opportunities presented by the digital transition. <ul><li>The demand for content that can be accessed anytime, anywhere by anyone will continue to explode. </li></ul><ul><li>Taking public broadcasting digital will require expenditures on the order of $2 billion. Yet there exists no viable, noncommercial idea for securing the resources needed. </li></ul>So here we are at the dawn of new digital media -- media that can achieve the democratic potential envisioned by the founders of our public broadcasting eco-system -- and yet public media lack the support that will allow us to take full advantage of this massive opportunity
    11. 11. So, what’s next? The big challenge <ul><li>We need to build a movement around a bigger vision of what public media can become. </li></ul><ul><li>We need to reach beyond our usual constituencies to involve people and groups from a every sector of society. </li></ul><ul><li>We need to have the courage to think long-term – even to abandon some of the short-term fixes. </li></ul><ul><li>We need to get behind a policy solution for a sustainable ( scratch that) flourishing non-commercial media system. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Who are we? <ul><li>PBS, NPR, Pacifica Radio, independent programmers -- and their advocates on Capitol Hill such as APTS. </li></ul>The movement to re-invent public media has three legs: The public broadcasting community <ul><li>Free Press, Common Cause, MoveOn.org Civic Action, UCC, Children Now. </li></ul>The public interest community Congress
    13. 13. The Public Interest Community Strengths: <ul><li>Willing to engage in long-term vision and map out a campaign to get us there </li></ul><ul><li>Network of advocates with access in Washington </li></ul><ul><li>Large base of engaged activists; grassroots organizing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Access to communities outside traditional public broadcasting membership </li></ul>Weaknesses: <ul><li>Perceptions of partisanship </li></ul><ul><li>Outside media making and journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Competing interests in our work and goals for public media </li></ul>
    14. 14. The Public Broadcasting Community Strengths: <ul><li>Established and trusted brand </li></ul><ul><li>Established track record of excellence in programming </li></ul><ul><li>Audience reach in the tens if not hundreds of millions </li></ul><ul><li>National network of local grassroots service centers (a.k.a. stations) </li></ul>Weaknesses: <ul><li>Resistance to changes in the status quo </li></ul><ul><li>Not empowered to defend their own interests; engage in trenches of a hard-won grassroots advocacy campaign </li></ul>
    15. 15. Congress Strengths: <ul><li>Source of strong and outspoken leaders for the campaign </li></ul><ul><li>Ultimate brokers of change to our public media system </li></ul>Weaknesses: <ul><li>Fear of the “T” word </li></ul><ul><li>Move at glacial speeds -- or not at all -- if not prompted </li></ul><ul><li>Often lacking vision to see beyond the current cycle of appropriations </li></ul><ul><li>Subject to the swirling political winds of Washington </li></ul>
    16. 16. How we can win <ul><li>We Unify Behind a Clear and Exciting Vision of What Public Media Can Be </li></ul><ul><li>We Work Together To Amplify Our Strengths and Diminish our Weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>We Put the Public Back in Public Media </li></ul><ul><li>We Stay in it Together for the Long Haul </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Organize from the bottom up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engage broader constituents through hearings and other “public ascertainment.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reserve a place at the table for unserved and underserved communities </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. How we can win The moral of the story: Policies shape the system, and as citizens, broadcasters, media makers and advocates, we must work together to shape these policies. Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media and involve the public in media policymaking. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal, affordable access to communications.
    18. 18. Timothy Karr Campaign Director Free Press www.freepress.net Breaking the Box: Putting the Public Back in Public Media

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