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Public Media: “More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive”

December 9, 2010

The Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program jointly released a policy paper on Wednesday with recommendations for federal support for public broadcasting. The report, written by Barbara Cochran of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is entitled “Rethinking Public Media” and is available here.

Cochran’s paper recommends both ways in which public media can engage its audience more deeply, and also how the U.S. government should be strengthening its support of those efforts. “Only public media leaders can convince government and philanthropic supporters that they have a new vision worthy of their investment,” she writes. And together, industry leaders and government agencies can work toward the goal of making public media “more local, more inclusive, and more interactive.”

For instance, Cochran wants a join investment (from government, private and philanthropic sources) of $100 million to add 1,000 reporters to public media rosters. She recommends more partnerships between media organizations and area schools, in order to increase diversity of coverage and to promote digital media literacy with local youth. The paper also stresses the importance of a local audience’s involvement in public media licenses in their area, and offers recommendations about how to improve it.

As for long-lasting policy, in the “Who Should Do What” chapter, she calls on the Federal Communications Commission to adopt policies that will “include a guarantee of public media access to broadband delivery systems and advantageous rates for streaming video and audio…ease station acquisition, mergers and operating agreements…[and] make it easier for one organization to run several outlets.”

For another take on the need for an overhaul of our national media infrastructure, CJR’s latest cover story—an open letter to the FCC by Steve Coll—is a great resource, and is available in full here.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner