Knight Foundation, Aspen Institute Paper Recommends Transformation of Public Media

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Communications and Society Program of the Aspen Institute have issued a new position paper calling for significant changes in the structure of public broadcasting.

Authored by Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the paper, Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive (54 pages, PDF), recommends that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting be restructured as the Corporation for Public Media and that the restructured entity focus on breaking down barriers between television and radio.

The paper also calls on Congress, philanthropic organizations, and others to help public media entities operate with greater efficiency by making it easier for them to consolidate and merge; improve community governance structures and increase digital experience among board members; increase federal support for public media through a special appropriation; work with community foundations to support community information needs; and keep digital content free.

In the report, Cochran encourages public media stations to develop innovative models for delivering more local news coverage and to collectively invest $100 million in adding a thousand public media reporters to boost local coverage. She also advises public broadcasters to seek new ways of engaging diverse and traditionally underserved communities such as youth and minorities and to better define the role of public media entities in meeting the needs of communities. And she recommends expanding the diversity of news and information staff at both the national and local levels, partnering with journalism schools to engage young people, and creating a corps to promote digital literacy in underserved communities.

"Above all, public media leaders need to embrace a new definition that is more local, more inclusive, and more interactive and become more involved in the development of the nation's broadband policy, guaranteeing access, reducing costs of streaming and other technology, and overcoming copyright roadblocks" said Cochran. "Only public media leaders can convince government and philanthropic supporters that they have a new vision worthy of their investment."

"New Policy Paper Recommends Transformation of Public Media." John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Press Release 12/08/2010.