Lasar: Local CABs don’t necessarily represent the whole community

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Matthew Lasar, a professor and media writer who authored a book on the history of Pacifica Radio, examines two of the “smaller recommendations” in Free Press’s recent white paper on public broadcasting reforms, and cautions against its proposal to strengthen the role of local station Community Advisory Boards.

Free Press’s ideas for “pumping up” CABs assume that “there is an almost Rousseauean entity out there called ‘the public’ or ‘the community’ that, when consulted, will always serve up selfless suggestions about how to make a community or public radio station better….Lots of people who attend public media board meetings go there for self-interested reasons. They want some portion of the station’s resources. They want a show on the station. Or they want access to the station’s air time.”

CABs have an important role to play in reaching public media’s under-served constituencies and providing input on programs, Lasar acknowledges, but: “These sort of boards can pressure stations to disconnect from their listeners by capitulating to small factions who have little interest in anything besides their own narrow agenda.”

Lasar examined Free Press’s proposals for financing a public media trust fund last week on Ars Technica. Current‘s summary of the paper, New Public Media: A Call for Action, with a link to the full report, is here.