Pledge programming will erode pubcasting identity and mission, Fanning says

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David Fanning, executive producer of Frontline, raised his concerns about public broadcasting on-air fundraising while accepting Quinnipiac University’s Fred Friendly First Amendment Award on Tuesday (June 14). An excerpt:

“Where once stations were lead by broadcasters and educators who believed deeply in the mission of public broadcasting, now as money gets tighter a new generation of leaders comes in, brought in by worried board members who almost inevitably turn to the person in charge of fundraising to help manage the station.

“With that comes programming choices that are safer, and the pursuit of audience for the sake of audience, and membership for the dollars. Why do we find it necessary to attract members with pledge programming that has nothing to do with our core programs? This is our deepest embarrassment, especially for public television. I have heard the arguments, and I understand the imperatives for local stations, but to have created such a schizophrenic programming strategy is not just misguided, but will ultimately erode our identity and our mission.”

Fanning accepted the prestigious honor at a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York City; the crowd included author Gay Talese and former ABC News anchor Charles Gibson. Fanning’s entire speech is here (PDF).

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