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Nonprofit media. Public Broadcasting. Low Power FM. Religious Broadcasting. Nonprofit News Websites. Foundations. Journalism Schools.

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Section TWO nonprofit media Public Broadcasting PEG SPANs Satellite Low Power FM Religious Broadcasting Nonprofit News Websites Foundations Journalism Schools Evolving Nonprofit media 146 Throughout American
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Section TWO nonprofit media Public Broadcasting PEG SPANs Satellite Low Power FM Religious Broadcasting Nonprofit News Websites Foundations Journalism Schools Evolving Nonprofit media 146 Throughout American history, the vast majority of news has been provided by commercial media. For the reasons described in Part One, the commercial sector has been uniquely situated to generate the revenue and profits to sustain labor-intensive reporting on a massive scale. But nonprofit media has always played an important supplementary role. While many nonprofits are small, community-based operations, others are large and some have developed into institutions of tremendous importance in the information sector. The Associated Press is the nation s largest news wire service, AARP: The Magazine is the largest circulation print magazine in the country, NPR is the largest employer of radio journalists, and Wikipedia is one of the largest information sites on the Internet. Technological changes have transformed noncommercial media as much as they have commercial media. Public TV and radio are morphing into multiplatform information providers. Even before the Internet, nonprofit programming was emerging independent of traditional public TV and radio on satellite, cable television, and low-power FM stations. And now, with the digital revolution, we see an explosion of new nonprofit news websites and mobile phone applications. What is more, our perception of the nonprofit sector must now expand to include: journalism schools that send students into the streets to report; state-level C-SPANs; citizen journalists who contribute to other websites or Tweet, blog and otherwise communicate their own reporting; and even sites born of or shaped by software developers who create open source code, free to the public for use and open to amendment by other developers. This has led to countless programs and software languages including Mozilla Firefox, Linux, Drupal, and WordPress. 147 Therefore, to understand the full media landscape especially when it comes to news, journalism, and information we must consider not only the still-important realm of public broadcasting and its digital extensions, but also the wider range of nonprofit media whose primary mission is to serve the public s information needs. Several factors have prompted media watchers to focus more intensely on the role of nonprofit media. First, as noted in Chapter 4, Internet, the types of information that are in decline are those that have always been challenging for the commercial sector to produce profitably. Business models from the past that relied on more profitable types of information to subsidize the production of less profitable types have crumbled in the digital age, making the challenge of providing those less profitable types even greater. Among the products the commercial sector seems to be under-producing are local labor-intensive beat reporting; investigative reporting; so-called broccoli journalism (about topics important to individual and communal health, but not always popular); and foreign coverage. Commercial enterprises have struggled to find business models that would sustain such journalism, in part because of the free rider problem: many Americans find these topics important in theory, but figure they will find out about them without having to pay for the content. (See Chapter 4, Internet), The value of such public goods to a healthy society is not always readily apparent. And there is the fact that most advertisers do not like to associate their brands with controversial or less popular content, so they are unlikely to pay premium rates to help sustain the content production. Most American media outlets are now owned by publicly held corporations traded in the equity markets. This structure has many advantages, providing operational efficiencies and drawing massive amounts of private capital into the media system. But it has drawbacks, too. These companies have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit, making it sometimes difficult for them to do what non- 148 profit media or some family-owned businesses did in the past: accept lower short-term profit margins in order to invest in the community, either for psychic rewards or a longer-term financial payoff. The persistence of gaps in the markets for information has led many to wonder whether the role of nonprofit organizations in the media ecosystem should become different or larger, especially in regard to local news. Indeed, some nonprofits seem inclined to step up their contributions to local information, news, and journalism, but they face many obstacles in doing so. 149 6 Public Broadcasting The American public broadcasting system is the product of two historic moments, one in the 1930s, when spectrum was first set aside for noncommercial broadcasters, and the other in 1967, when Congress created the modern system of public TV and radio. Many experts believe that we now sit at a third such critical juncture. This is a 1967 moment for public broadcasting, says Ernie Wilson, former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) board of directors and current dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism. 1 Today s pivotal decisions concern, in part, how public TV and radio will adapt to the same changes that are buffeting commercial media: the rise of the Internet and mobile, the proliferation of consumer choices, the economic downturn s impact on revenue, and the disruptions of digital technology. But, the soul-searching goes further. What should the public media mission be? Some suggest they should increase their educational content and their work with schools, as districts everywhere seek to improve educational services. Others urge public media to focus more on local content, especially news, information, and journalism. In The Reconstruction of American Journalism, an October 2009 report for the Columbia Journalism Review, Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson recommended that public broadcasters increase their production of local information: The CPB should declare that local news reporting is a top priority for public broadcasting and change its allocation of resources accordingly. Local news reporting is an essential part of the public education function that American public radio and television have been charged with fulfilling since their inception. 2 Picking up on policy proposals for CPB reform, 3 Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and head of the New America Foundation, recommends a new strategic direction for CPB, which he thinks should be renamed the Corporation for Public Media. The funding regime for the restructured entity, Coll says, should be measured by whether or not it will produce more serious, independent, diverse, public-minded reporting. 4 On the other hand, the political problems that arise whenever public broadcasters make a controversial decision with respect to programming or staffing raise questions about whether a focus on journalism would not simply exacerbate concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars in media. Whether public broadcasters (or an expanded group of public media participants) will play a more central role in the provision of news and information, especially at the local level, depends on many factors, including whether the current public broadcasting culture, structure, and rules can adapt to new realities, and how legacy and emerging public media entities define their missions. History Public broadcasting had its origins in American universities. In 1917, the University of Wisconsin in Madison launched 9XM, 5 the first educational radio station, which aired shows like The Friendly Giant, a precursor to Sesame Street. 6 Four years later, the Latter-Day Saints University in Salt Lake City, Utah, received an official federal government license for a station 7 that broadcast educational lectures, basketball games, and musical concerts. 8 By the mid-1930s, there were 202 such educational stations in existence. But in 1936, the bottom fell out. Universities discovered that their stations did not stimulate greater enrollment or publicity, and that those who staffed them lacked the time and expertise to produce compelling shows. Struggling economically through the Depression, most universities let their licenses expire or transferred them to commercial enterprises. 9 Meanwhile, commercial radio stations were attracting large audiences, and they coveted the spectrum held by educators. 10 As increasing numbers of educational stations turned their licenses over to commercial operations, a wide 150 range of organizations began to fear that their interests would be neglected under this new regime. Agrarian stations worried that farm extension programs would be lost; church leaders and religious broadcasters were concerned about programming for the disadvantaged and working class; the growing labor movement was afraid that it would be unable to reach the people. Many feared that a wholly commercial system would squelch free speech by reserving the airwaves for majority viewpoints. 11 University of Wyoming president, Arthur G. Crane, called the commercial system an almost incredible absurdity for a country that stakes its existence upon universal suffrage, upon the general intelligence of its citizens, upon the spread of reliable information...and then consigns a means of general communication exclusively to private interests, making public use for general welfare subordinate and incidental. 12 A coalition of noncommercial stations pressed the newly created Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reserve channels for educational broadcasting. 13 The commercial broadcasting industry fought back. Broadcasters feared that spectrum set-asides would deprive businesses of lucrative markets and that new noncommercial entrants would siphon off audience and support. To address the interests of educational broadcast supporters, the National Association of Broadcasters offered instead to increase the amount of commercial broadcast time its members dedicated to educational programming. 14 In 1938, the FCC decided that educational programming merited a dedicated capacity, so it took the historic step of reserving spectrum for noncommercial broadcast use. 15 In 1945, the Commission reserved the MHz band for noncommercial educational FM stations. 16 By 1952, there were 90 stations, with regional networks developing to foster the exchange of programming among stations. 17 The birth of television renewed the debate over noncommercial channels. Frieda B. Hennock, the FCC s first female commissioner, argued that even though educational institutions might not yet be equipped to create TV programming, spectrum should be reserved for when the capability arose. 18 To do otherwise, she said, would result in a tragic waste from the standpoint of the public interest if, at the outset of development in this field, adequate provision were not made for the realization of almost limitless possibilities of television as a medium of visual education. 19 In 1952, the FCC reserved 242 television channels for noncommercial educational (NCE) television stations and in May 1953, the University of Houston s KUHT (now HoustonPBS) became the first A 2010 Roper Survey found that PBS outranked courts of law as the single most trusted institution in the United States. educational TV station to operate on a reserved channel. 20 These early stations aired mostly instructional programs, such as university telecourses in psychology, how-tos on flower-arranging, and high-minded discussions of current events. Popular programs included in-studio concerts, Japanese brush painting (which sparked a national fad), an award-winning set of poetry readings by Robert Frost, and half-hour conversations with philosopher Eric Hoffer. 21 During this period, noncommercial broadcasters emphasized localism and experimentation, giving rise to programming that did not fit the traditional educational model. The Pacifica Radio Network, for example, aired controversial and political material, discarding educational and commercial broadcast conventions. 22 Where other newscasters tended to air short news pieces, Pacifica offered continuing and in-depth reporting on the civil rights movement in the 1960s and took on legal cases to protect news sources in the 1970s. 23 Over time, a broader community radio movement developed that included ethnically targeted foreign-language broadcasters, volunteer-driven radio networks, and stations that were financially supported by their listeners, rather than by educational institutions. 24 Despite some success stories, noncommercial stations entered the second half of the 20th century short on money and organizational competence essentially failing. By the 1960s, educational radio had declined dramatically. When, at this time, foundation funding shifted away from general station support to directed programming grants, public TV stations were forced to make massive cuts. 25 Some were kept afloat only by grants from the Ford Foundation. 26 Leaders from educational TV stations asked that a national commission be formed to address the crisis, a goal President Lyndon Johnson endorsed. 27 The resulting Carnegie Commission on Educational Television (financed by the Carnegie Corporation), issued an influential report in January 1967, entitled Public Television: A Program for Action. It called for a new system of public television that would provide national programming, yet retain its local roots. And it called for two key changes: (1) an increase in federal support for noncommercial broadcasting, and (2) the establishment of a private corporation 151 that would coordinate public broadcasting operations. The report foresaw a broad mission for public television, arguing that the service had the potential to deepen a sense of community in local life, be a forum for debate and controversy, and provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard. 28 Congress incorporated many of the recommendations into the Public Broadcasting Act, which was signed into law by President Johnson that same year. The Act established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), an organization that would provide regular funding through a process relatively insulated from politics. 29 Though appointed by the U.S. president with the advice and consent of Congress, CPB s board of directors can have no more than a bare majority from one political party and must be composed of non-governmental officials barred from involvement in political campaigns. 30 To ensure that it would not control public broadcasting content, CPB was prohibited from producing or distributing programs. Its purpose was to dispense funds to individual stations and to the independent, nonprofit national networks created in 1970: the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). 31 Over the next 40 years, PBS and NPR evolved in very different ways. Unlike national commercial networks, PBS does not own stations or programming. It is supported and governed by its member stations, and its primary purpose is to aggregate and brand programming produced by local outlets and other programmers. In the early years of the public broadcasting system, federal funding was allocated for While in other countries the public in public broadcasting means government, in the U.S., most of the funding for public broadcasting comes from non-governmental sources. television alone; to the extent that radio received funds at all, it was at the will of television entities. That changed in the late 1970s through an act of Congress that specifically allocated funding to local public radio stations. These stations have, like their TV brethren, formed a national network. Like PBS, NPR does not own stations and is governed, and largely financed, by its member stations. However, because of the lower political profile of radio when the networks were established, NPR was allowed to produce its own news and cultural programming for distribution across the member stations network. (There is a full discussion of CPB structure, rules and policy in in Chapter 31, Nonprofit Media.) Also, in part because radio is cheaper to produce and in part because of legal interventions, there are competing national networks in public radio (e.g., Public Radio International and American Public Media) that don t exist in public television. In terms of audience reach and appreciation, the Public Broadcasting Act must be deemed a success. Before 1967, there were only 292 educational FM stations; today there are more than Before the Act, there were 124 educational TV stations on the air; 33 today there are Together, they reach nearly 281 million individuals. 35 Public radio s audience in particular is substantial and growing. NPR reached 34 million people over the airwaves of member stations in 2010, its best year ever, and millions more downloaded its podcasts. 36 In 2010, NPR had a reported 1.8 million followers on Twitter and 700,000 fans on Facebook; 37 its smartphone applications had been downloaded 2.5 million times since 2008, and its ipad application had been downloaded on one out of every five ipads sold. 38 PBS. org s ipad app hit number one in Apple s itunes store within 24 hours of its release. 39 Though subject to occasional controversy, public broadcasters have generally achieved a high level of respect among the public, according to polls. Public television in particular seems to occupy a special place of honor for a wide swath of Americans. A 2010 Roper Survey found that for the seventh consecutive year, PBS outranked courts of law as the single most trusted institution in the United States among every measured age group, ethnicity, income, and education level of the public. 40 Business Models The economics of public broadcasting are often misunderstood. While in other countries the public in public broadcasting means government, in the U.S. most of the funding for public broadcasting (referred to in the following charts as revenue ) comes from non-governmental sources. 41 In 2008, about 60 percent of public broadcasting revenue came from private sources, including grants from corporations, colleges, universities, foundations, and individual subscribers. 43 Individual donors comprise the largest 152 Total Public Broadcasting System Revenue by Source $800 $700 $600 $500 $400 $300 $200 $100 $0 CPB & Federal State & Local Colleges & Government Government Individuals Businesses Foundations Universities Other Sources n FY 2007 $479,759,503 $430,650,973 $714,557,949 $458,359,252 $224,031,901 $272,812,181 $342,518,617 n FY 2008 $466,729,363 $434,466,823 $749,764,176 $507,881,758 $224,832,699 $290,825,670 $174,755,590 n FY 2009 $478,791,441 $425,583,804 $719,974,052 $428,492,235 $203,868,960 $286,710,406 $63,558,921 Source: Corporation for Public Broadcasting Annual Financial Report, Station Activities Benchmarking Study, and Stations Activity Survey Information Public Broadcasting Revenue by Source (FY 2008) Public Radio and Public Television Total Revenue: $2.85 billion Other Colleges & Universities Private Colleges & Universities 1% 2% State Colleges & Universities 8% All Other 6% 14% CPB Appropriation Foundations 8% 12% State Governments Businesses 18% 3% 3% Local Governments Federal Grants and Contracts 26% Subscribers Source: Corporation for Public Broadcasting Appropriations Request 42 single source, accounting for nearly $750 million, or 26.3 percent of revenue. 44 Mid-size and larger stations rely even more heavily on individual donations. For example, individual contributions accounted for 46 percent of the revenue of WHYY in Philadelphia in and provided 52 percent of the support for the local operations of WETA in Washington D.C. 46 For public stations overall, businesses provide 17.8 percent (about $508 million) a
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