The Future Of Public Broadcasting: The Digital Turning Point

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Draft presentation prepared for ARNIC Spring 08 Workshop on "US Digital Policy in the Global Context: Issues and Prospects Beyond 2008"
http://arnic.info/workshop08.php
(copyright 2008 by the authors)

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The Future Of Public Broadcasting: The Digital Turning Point

  1. 1. The Future of Public Broadcasting The Digital Turning Point
  2. 2. 349 PBS Stations NBC has 194 Affiliates
  3. 3. California
  4. 4. Three Major Presenting Stations <ul><li>WGBH -Boston-Frontline, Nova, Masterpiece Theater, American Experience </li></ul><ul><li>WNET -New York-Charlie Rose, American Masters </li></ul><ul><li>WETA -Washington,DC-The News Hour, Washington Week, Ken Burns </li></ul><ul><li>Six other “Majors”-LA, SF, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Economics <ul><li>Filmmaker brings idea to Producing Station </li></ul><ul><li>Producing Station develops a show. </li></ul><ul><li>Gets foundations and corporate “underwriters” on board </li></ul><ul><li>Takes the package to PBS and CPB </li></ul><ul><li>Producing station and filmmaker can end up with DVD and foreign </li></ul>
  6. 6. How the “Network” Works <ul><li>PBS essentially sells the programs to the local stations. </li></ul><ul><li>Local Stations raise money for programming through pledge drives </li></ul><ul><li>Stations budget for programming based on market and membership size. </li></ul><ul><li>Relatively anarchic system compared to commercial network system (barter) </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Problems <ul><li>The whole system is on a one year funding cycle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Impossible to plan for long development cycles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The system as a whole is under-funded </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Requiring stations to spend valuable resources fund raising </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There is an excess of democracy in the allocation of resources </li></ul>
  8. 8. National Public Radio
  9. 9. History <ul><li>Formed in 1970 after the creation of the Public broadcasting Act </li></ul><ul><li>Went on the air with 90 stations as members </li></ul><ul><li>Morning Edition started in 1973 </li></ul><ul><li>Early 80’s, government tried to cut all funding for NPR </li></ul><ul><li>Joan Kroc willed NPR $200 Million in 2003 </li></ul>
  10. 10. News Shows <ul><li>Morning Edition 14 million daily listeners. </li></ul><ul><li>All things Considered - 13 million daily listeners </li></ul>
  11. 11. Better Model <ul><li>Gets 60% of budget from listener contributions. </li></ul><ul><li>Central Programming wing at NPR to avoid presenting station rivalry </li></ul><ul><li>Needs only 4% of budget from CPB, so much less vulnerable to political interference </li></ul>

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