Newsosaur to pubcasters: learn to live without federal aid or learn to share

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Veteran newspaperman and news industry analyst Alan Mutter weighs in on the debate over CPB funding and concludes that it’s time for public broadcasters to learn to live without their federal aid. Public broadcasting stations are “generally well-funded, well-known and well-established organizations,” Mutter writes on his blog Reflections of a Newsosaur, noting that local stations derive an average of 15 percent of their annual revenues from Uncle Sam. “The fact that the public media operate with only a modest degree of federal funding is not only fortunate for them at a time of aggressive budget cutting but also a sign that government support of the public media has been an unqualified success,” Mutter writes.

He points to the political pressure that’s historically been exerted on CPB to influence content; six-figure salaries of executives at CPB, PBS and local stations; and the field’s success in raising private sources of support to strengthen its service to make his case.

If policymakers see a continued need for federal assistance to nonprofit media, Mutter concludes, then new web-based start-ups such as New America Media and MinnPost should be included in the mix of grantees. These not-profit news ventures deserve an equal chance in competing for “the sort of seed money that helped build public broadcasting into the powerful organization it is today.”