Bill Moyers, speaking at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace going on this week (Nov. 9-12) in Memphis, today called for a “makeover” of the public broadcasting system, “a rebirth, yes, of vision, imagination, and creativity, but above all a structure and scheme for the 2lst century,” beginning with a weeklong brainstorming convention of station managers, programmers, producers, viewers and other interested parties. “We could even stream it live on every public station website in the country,” he said.
Currently, public broadcasting in America is “just hanging on, leaking away, fraying at the margins; scrambling year by year to survive, hoping all the while for what in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and austerity will never be — more and more funding from Congress,” Moyers told the crowd.
“Everyone involved in the system has a vested interest in the status quo,” he said, “no matter how fragile and perilous. In truth, we all know that the better solutions demand a major overhaul of the national system.”
The next incarnation of public broadcasting must come from the stations, Moyers said. “I think you are the ones who are going to have to lead this process with the vision, the in-depth research, thoughtful analysis and multiple scenario planning it will require.”
“The core problem,” Moyers said, “is that we still don’t have an expansive national vision of what we’re about, where we want to go and what we want to become. Until we are able to say clearly and comprehensively what it is we really want to do, how much it will cost, and how we intend to get there, we can’t blame Congress, the White House or even the foundations for not supporting us more fully. In our candid moments, usually while bending elbows at the bar, we admit to each other that we’re mired in a sclerotic system that binds us to a politically cautious set of national entities that are both underfunded and themselves incapable of leading anyone towards a more vigorous notion of our future.”
And what might result from a serious reconsideration of the pubcasting system? “Nobody knows,” he said. “But at least we’d be alive again — to each other, to ideas, to new possibilities, and to the American people — the public, I say again, in public broadcasting.”
Moyers’ latest show, Moyers & Company, debuts in January, distributed by APT (Current, Aug. 29).