A reader asks: Why do some states lack statewide public radio networks?

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Many states are served by public radio and TV networks that reach a wide swath of listeners and viewers. But not all states have a statewide network. As part of our Currently Curious series, we’re trying to find out why.

The question came to us from Kelley Libby, an associate producer of With Good Reason, a weekly show produced by Virginia Humanities for the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium. Libby asked: “Why doesn’t Virginia have a statewide public radio network? Which states do, and why?”

Libby told me she became interested in the question when she was working on “UnMonumental,” a Localore project supported by RadioIQ/WVTF based at Virginia Tech. Though her program aired on stations across the state, she wondered how many other stories about Virginians weren’t being shared statewide due to the lack of a network.

Virginia contains many unique areas, she said, from the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia to the coal mines of Appalachia. Libby wonders whether Virginia is missing an opportunity to connect its citizens.

“It’s important for us to hear from people in our state,” Libby said. “Our lives are connected.”

Given that Virginia doesn’t have a public radio network, Libby said, she also wants to know how statewide public radio networks formed. And though she knows other states have statewide networks, she wonders whether a Virginia network would “help or harm hyperlocal news coverage.”

“What are the benefits of it, and what are the drawbacks?” Libby asked.

As we start digging into Libby’s questions, let us know about your experience with statewide public media networks. Do you work for, watch or listen to one? What are the pros and cons of a state network? If you’re in a state without one, do you wish it had one? Let us know with a comment below, or email me at aeversden1@gmail.com.

Submit your own question to Currently Curious in the form below. It could be investigated in a future story.

3 thoughts on “A reader asks: Why do some states lack statewide public radio networks?

  1. AFAIK, the simplest reason why most states either have or do not have a statewide public radio network depends mostly on whether the state providing funding to create/maintain such a network at the beginning.

    Sure there are some exceptions to that concept, I think New Hampshire would be one; although NH is small enough that a lot of the geographic diversity problems of trying to cover multiple disparate regions with the same content are significantly muted. Not eliminated, though. Even in NH there are significant differences between the northern and southern ends of the state, and NHPR tries to reflect that by programming some of their transmitters independently to a limited extent.

    Often the areas that lack a statewide network could really benefit from one. New York north of the Catskills comes immediately to mind. All the regional pubradio outlets are perpetually fighting with each other for little good reason. There could be significant opportunities for collaboration if the egos of certain GM’s (and more than one) were held more in check. Georgia was another area where the fighting between GPB and WABE just seems ridiculous; they could’ve worked together a lot more a lot earlier and probably for both sides’ benefit. And don’t get me started on the disaster that was KUSP vs KAZU.

  2. In some states with several large cities, there might not be statewide networks, but perhaps some programming (and news reports) can be shared between stations.

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