Monday, August 27, 2018

Corp. for Public Broadcasting board member: U.S. money should be steered to public radio and TV for local journalism

Increasing layoffs in the news business, and the news deserts than are resulting, are a plausible threat to democracy, Howard Husock writes for The Wall Street Journal. Husock is the vice president of free-market think tank the Manhattan Institute and a member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board.

New Jersey is trying to preserve community news coverage by providing $5 million in grant funding for local journalism, but Husock doesn't think the plan to disburse those funds through a board of political appointees and university representatives is exactly independent journalism. There’s a better way, he writes: Change the federal Public Broadcasting Act so that the $445 million subsidy for “public media” can be diverted to local public radio and TV stations, which now have to spend 23 percent of their grant money to buy Public Broadcasting Service programs.

“A shift toward local journalism would be in line with the path many of the best public broadcasters have already blazed," Husock writes. "New York’s WNYC, Boston’s WBUR, Dallas’s KERA and San Francisco’s KQED have all transformed themselves into local news powerhouses thanks to local financial support. WBUR alone has a newsroom staff of more than 100, and WNYC’s ratings exceed those of its commercial competitors. These are serious, independent newsrooms.”

He adds, “Any station that wants to survive will have no choice but to develop local content. National programs will increasingly be delivered directly to your smartphone or tablet, bypassing the cable box or FM dial. PBS Kids is already an app. So is NPR programming. Why would local stations want to send their federal funds to NPR and PBS, given this new distribution technology? Letting local stations keep their federal funds would help local citizens understand local issues. It would lead to more culturally and politically diverse offerings, some of which would make their way on to national outlets such as NPR and PBS.”

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