Saving public broadcasting

Saving public broadcasting

: I have a humble suggestion for how to save public broadcasting:

Make it truly public broadcasting, supported by its public instead of by government.

The hooha going on over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is precisely the danger of taking government money: It’s taking political money. It is a worse compromise than taking advertisers’ money, for advertisers’ agendas are clear — selling things, making money — while politicians’ agendas are far more slippery. So I say it’s time to take the bull by the horns:

1. Get Howard Dean’s fundraising geniuses to get out a bat and start a combative fundraising campaign: For every dollar the politicians try to cut, you vow to raise two dollars (as when, in the Dean blog, every troll attack brought in more contributions).

2. Use that money to underwrite just the kinds of programs the conservative opponents of public broadcasting will hate most: Alan Alda narrating a five-part series on the wonders of stem-cell research…. Sex education, the series…. Probing televangelists…. An investigation of America’s health-care crisis….

3. Get celebrities signed up. Guarantees free publicity. Might even get you in their wills.

4. Send the stars — and Jesse Jackson — into companies to get them to pay up, concentrating on the companies of new media that are upsetting the old. Hey, Google, if you’re getting into the news business, why not start supporting the content you so love to link to? Hey, Apple, if you really want to support education, pay for Sesame Street? Hey, Bill Gates, if you want to improve public health, throw some money to PBS for an informative series on AIDS? Yahoo, you want content for online, why not underwrite a broadcast series and tie it to online presentation?

5. As the money is raised, get PBS supporters in Congress to go along with the cuts in CBP budgeting on one condition: Every dollar that leaves public broadcasting goes into education.

In addition, PBS especially needs to get smarter about new media. Follow the BBC’s example and start putting all programming up online for free distribution (with underwrwiters’ and pledge messages included): If your mission is to serve the public, then serve them where and how they want to be served. And:

: Involve the public more in the creation of programming. I won’t replay that sermon here.

: Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting in an era when the public can broadcast.

: Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting and when cable provides so much more value, like historical and educational programming (and I’m sorry that 11 percent of the country don’t get TV via cable but, hey,

: Here’s the tough one: Try to raise money based on quality programming, not on John Tesh specials. Get rid of those named touchy-feely cultish self-improvement bullshit shows. Have some pride in quality again.

This is the long-term strategy public broadcasting must follow if it is going to avoid complete politicization. Yes, we can argue that it’s a shame that the government does not support public broadcasting. But taking money from politicians gets you politics.

: AMEN: See Doc Searls.

: Ernie Miller says:

We really should reexamine the mission of public broadcasting, not only in the context of cable, but in the context of the internet and the coming of broadcatching. Perhaps we may want to figure out how to democratize distribution, rather than subsidize flawed distribution schemes.