‘The Pub’ #61: The case for PBS stations in a post-TV world

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Bass, Pavelko, Davidson

Bass, Pavelko, Davidson

Imagine that you’re Person A. You want to consume a service from Person B. But in order to get it, you have to pay money to Person C, even though Person C has nothing to do with the service you’re seeking. You’d wonder if Person C was in the Mafia.

This is what it might feel like for users of Passport, the newest on-demand video service from PBS. If you want to stream all six seasons of Downton Abbey, you have to become a member of your local station in order to get a Passport login, even though your local station had nothing to do with making Downton Abbey and plays no technically essential role in streaming it to you.

On The Pub this week, we ask three smart station leaders: What’s the point of local TV stations when viewers can — and increasingly do — watch national programming online? (We had the same conversation about radio three weeks ago.) Oregon Public Broadcasting CEO Steve Bass, WITF CEO Kathleen Pavelko and UNC-TV content chief Tom Davidson take turns answering their organizations’ common existential question.

Also on the show, a war of essays about the future of public radio vis-à-vis podcasting prompts veteran public radio host and humorist John Moe to enter the fray. Hear him perform his satirical essay “Public Radio Story Private Pods: Now, Forever, and Yesterday.”

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to adam@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

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  • Frank Roosevelt

    Public media should be embracing online advertising now, while the advertisers are willing to pay for online content. The law of supply and demand aren’t going to allow much revenue in the internet age. When the supply of online channels increase the demand for ad space must decrease. Example: the Super Bowl can still command high prices because the supply of ad space is limited.

    Technology has reduced the cost to produce radio shows. Anyone with an iPhone has the ability to record a podcast that is near the quality of broadcast radio. And with some training, anyone can produce a podcast that is on par with the quality of public radio.

    • Adam Ragusea

      Has public media not embraced online advertising?