The public media tent includes news shows on NPR and PBS, quality kids' programming like Sesame Street, public access TV channels, community radio stations and nonprofit journalism outlets. We rely on public media to inform us, educate our children, entertain us, broaden our cultural horizons, show us local government in action, and help us participate in our communities.
As commercial media institutions crumble, laying off thousands of journalists and gutting newsrooms, they fail to report in depth on the most vital stories of our time. Public broadcasters and community media outlets are not just an alternative to the mainstream; they are essential public institutions in our democracy.
The United States spends a tiny amount — $1.50 per capita — on public media funding. Indeed, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is among the lowest-funded public media systems in the world. Canada spends about $22 per capita; England comes in at around $80; and Denmark and Finland both spend more than $100 per capita.
But while we need noncommercial media in the U.S. more than ever, this vital service is facing new threats. Policymakers seeking to score political points are launching renewed attacks on public and community media.
We face a choice: We can accept a mediocre status quo and maintain an under-funded public media system that is vulnerable to constantly changing political winds, or we can aspire to a public media system that makes use of all technologies available to inspire, educate and inform.
Free Press is partnering with forward-thinking leaders across the public media community, independent media makers and everyday people to develop effective policies that will support public media over the long haul.