Native radio: at the heart of public radio’s mission

Ride the school bus on the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona and you’ll hear Shooting Stars, a program for kids produced mostly by volunteers at KUYI, the three-year-old public radio station on the reservation. Tune in during the day and you’ll hear an update on living with diabetes or asthma. Keep listening and you’ll hear junior- and senior-high school interns reading the news. Stop to chat with someone on the reservation about what they’ve heard on the radio. Everyone knows you’re talking about the same station. Continue Reading

Why public television?: Public TV’s mission statement, 2004

Public TV stations adopted this statement of mission at the PBS Members Meeting, Feb. 23, 2004. For more information. See also Current's coverage, published March 8, 2004. Public television is the only universally accessible national resource that uses the power and accessibility of television to educate, enlighten, engage and inform. Continue Reading

‘Our place is to offer an alternative for those who still want to learn’

We should not be surprised that most of television enters our people and our body politic, not as food for thought, but as an embalming fluid, a relaxing and displacing system of entertainment for those too exhausted, inert or numb to want more. But our place — your place, my place, the place of public television — is to offer an alternative to that, to serve the actual young and the forever young, the open and curious, those who still want to learn. Continue Reading

What Jon Rice gave to viewers and to friends

Jon might say that his prime legacy is this television station. What Jim Day and Jon Rice created from nothing more than a dream is an enviable monument. He loved KQED without reservation. He loved it with a passion that didn't waver for 47 years. Continue Reading

‘For listeners, we’re not the alternative, we’re the ideal’

CPB broke format in May 2001, giving its top radio honor, the Edward R. Murrow Award, to one of its own employees, Rick Madden, its v.p., radio. Madden delivered this acceptance speech during the opening session of the Public Radio Conference in Seattle on May 17, 2001. I first walked into noncommercial radio at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman and never walked out. That was in 1963, four years before the Carnegie Commission labeled us public radio. My radio passions ran contrary to my father's notions of what my interests should be. Continue Reading

Geller to FCC: scrap the rules, try a spectrum fee

More than three years after promising digital channels to broadcasters, the FCC held a hearing Oct. 16, 2000, about what the broadcasters should do in exchange for the spectrum. Most of the testimony was about possible FCC rules requiring political and children’s programming, but former FCC general counsel Henry Geller suggested, as he and others have said before, that the public interest would be served more effectively by assessing spectrum fees and paying pubcasters to do the public-interest programming. This article was adapted from Geller’s statement. The broadcast regulatory scheme, adopted in 1927 and continued to the present time in the 1996 amendments to the Communications Act, is one of short-term licensing, with the licensee committed to serving the public interest — of being a public trustee or fiduciary for its service area. Continue Reading

Will Senate loosen definition of ‘educational’ channels?

Public broadcasters are ramping up efforts to secure support of their position in the Senate after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that could force the FCC to permit religious broadcasters to use reserved noncommercial educational channels without determining whether they carry educational programs or not. The Noncommercial Broadcasting Freedom of Expression Act, H.R. 4201, passed the House 264-159 on June 20, with six Republicans and 153 Democrats opposed. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering (R-Miss.) but largely rewritten by House telecom subcommittee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.), gives nonprofit organizations the right to hold noncommercial educational (NCE) radio or television licenses if the station broadcasts material the organization itself deems to serve an "educational, instructional, cultural or religious purpose." The bill notes that religious programming "contributes to serving the educational and cultural needs of the public," and dictates that the FCC treat it the same way it treats educational programming. Before the legislation's passage, the House rejected an alternative offered by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that would have mandated the reserved channels be primarily educational. Continue Reading

Seize the diversity market: a pragmatic view

With the search for Ervin Duggan’s successor now underway, public broadcasting has an opportunity to reflect on how the next PBS president should deal with the many controversial issues facing the system — 30-second spots, leasing of the digital spectrum, and delivery of PBS programs on DBS, to name a few.Amidst these raging debates, we should not lose sight of our commitment to diversity and multiculturalism. How will we provide a narrative space for different ethnic and racial groups to express their hopes and fears, their struggles and triumphs, their successes and failures? How will we allow various ethnic minorities to speak in what one commentator calls the “voice of color.” (1) In short, how will we allow the diversity of perspectives to be aired, the marginalized voices to be heard, and the American stories to be told?Attempts to bring perspectives that are considered “outside the mainstream” have sometimes engendered a lot of controversy, both within and outside the system. In some cases, public broadcasting has been subject to threats to reduce or even eliminate its governmental funding. In the face of these political and funding pressures, should we shy away from programs that contain unconventional or unpopular views, such as the personal struggles of a black homosexual man? Continue Reading