February 18, 2011

By James Kwak

Thank you for all the suggestions about my post on the3six5. I decided to write about my favorite topic: my daughter. But at the suggestion of several people, here’s another one (also limited to 365 words and in diary style).

***

Today I spent another two hours in the car, mostly on Interstate 91.

The section between Amherst and Hartford is the stretch of highway I know best in all the world. For six years I went to the Hartford airport every week or two for business. For three years I’ve been driving to New Haven for school. And I recently accepted a job in Hartford.

The thing that makes it at all tolerable is the radio — more specifically, the podcasts I play from my phone. My favorite, loyal readers know, is This American Life, followed by RadioLab, Planet Money, Fresh Air, and TED Talks. (When I’m too tired for anything even remotely intellectual, I listen to embarrassing music on Pandora.)

Most of those shows come from NPR or its affiliates. The spending cuts just passed by House Republicans eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which according to Wikipedia provides about 17 percent of all funding for public broadcasting stations.

One might ask: public radio is nice, but can we afford it? The obvious response is that the CPB budget, like all the spending cuts, is peanuts: a few hundred million dollars, when Republicans and Democrats just agreed to cut taxes by $900 billion over two years.

More substantively, though, the question is whether public broadcasting provides something that the free market can’t. If you take free markets and incentives seriously, you have to recognize that (a) interest groups will try to buy the media and (b) the media will be bought. We could argue about whether media organizations can make more money by preserving their reputations for integrity, but recent experience dictates the opposite: just look at Fox News and [whatever outlet conservatives like to complain about]. The point of public broadcasting is to support media outlets that are more resistant to being bought, and to provide that support through a bipartisan process. It may not work perfectly, but it’s not a service that the free market would provide. Without public broadcasting, we’ll be a little bit closer to the world of Citizens United, where everything is for sale. And that will make our current political problems that much harder to solve.

Update: Various podcasts recommended by various people, in comments or in emails to me:

  • Bob Edwards
  • Martini Shot
  • The Breakdown (by The Nation)
  • KCRW’s Left, Right & Center
  • The New Yorker: The Political Scene
  • In Our Time (BBC)
  • Thinking Allowed (BBC)

65 responses to “February 18, 2011

  1. How much would you willing to pay for the podcasts?

    It’s certainly better than constantly being interrupted by pledge drives.

  2. I know this stretch of highway very well also as I worked north of Hartford. But I-84 west even better. Many a traffic jams I would be toggling between NPR and some music stations.
    NPR is one of my favorite stations and could in some sense be considered a public good as it adds to the culture and community.
    However, someone has to pay for it.
    With the same money, we could also create series of public sponsored playgrounds.
    Beautification projects along I-91.
    Better medical research grants.
    The list goes one.
    I personally would miss NPR, however, is it the role of government run radio stations? Or let the people decide if they want to donate or not?
    It comes back to what is the role of government?

  3. Sometimes it helps to visualize it, as well as hear it.

    Basically, people who have never done it themselves (or mentored by the type of education that went on in labor unions – how to do it right)

    who have gathered erroneous, cherry-picked data off the internet and propaganda machines

    stole the shearing scissors

    and are now running around the cashmere goat trying to maximize the profit that goat has to give in the way of hair

    for themselves.

    “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

    Predators “cutting” the budget down to size…yea, NPR produced no value that spread out like Mandelbrot’s set across “culture”…

    Tackle them before they get to the goat…

    I was delighted to find that the FREE, for-profit FM stations in the NYC area still have the same morning gangs cracking people up in traffic jams…person next to me started to hit the buttons on his “dish” rent-seeking radio trying to find the program that had me LAUGHING…I’m smiling, he’s throwing me dirty looks…

  4. You leave out a critical fact. Radio is not a free market. It is an oligopoly which is maintained by government regulation, that is the licensing process (including the fact of licensing the spectrum).

    This is an example of Government regulation is what I am against whereas Business Friendly Support of Free Market’s is what I am in favor of.

  5. Marc (above) makes a great point that radio was never and can never be a free market.

    To one James’s questions, “public radio is nice, but can we afford it”? – of course not. If you’re spending more than you take in, you can’t afford anything. Obviously that means we can afford our endless empire building and never ending wars either.

    To James’s more substantive question, does “public broadcasting provides something that the free market can’t”? I have two answers for that:

    Answer 1: NO – NPR doesn’t provide anything that the free market can’t provide. I’m not sure why you think “free market” means media buying or selling ads that compromise integrity. Democracy Now or AntiWar Radio are 100% listener supported and operate just fine in the free market. NPR just scratches the surface compared to Democracy Now. If you say “the free market’s bad because Fox is bad”, I’ll counter with “the free market’s good because Democracy Now is good”.

    Answer 2: Yes – NPR provides something that the free markets can not provide: Ad-free, feel-good, fluff pieces, and regurgitations of “government officials said…”

  6. CBS from the West

    Absolutely.

    I work mostly from home. I listen to NPR all day long, and on weekends too. I also contribute–and would contribute more if necessary to keep it going. I suspect most diehard NPR listeners would.

    It’s not at all clear that the NPR model cannot be sustained without government support. I think it can. But even if it can’t, I don’t see why other people should be forced to subsidize my entertainment. I’d be livid if my tax dollars were used to support Fox-news style broadcasting. Or even misogynistic rap music stations.

    This isn’t heating oil for poor people in the cold northeast winters! I don’t think it’s a proper government function.

  7. I am astounded when reading the comments here that the most basic question is not being asked:

    Who owns the airwaves again?

    The broadcast band is a public commons, a public possession that should be used primarily for the public and common good and NOT for private profit and propaganda designed to capture and tame the public mind and market. Democracy dies without free and accurate information and debate and that includes freedom from oligarchical capture and control.

    Entirely privatized media, media bought and paid for by large corporate private interests has already turned into the corrosive propaganda that today assaults Americans every moment of every day poisoning our nation’s political, cultural, and physical life.

    The proper role of government is to protect and promote real democracy practiced by real people. A large corporation is not a real person and should not have a stranglehold or even a decisive influence on the information and worldviews of real people, the real citizens of our democracy.

    If you think that NPR and PBS should be entirely “donor-supported”, then you will quickly have a “pubic broadcast service” entirely “underwritten” by oil companies and the Koch brothers (who already sponsor the more war-friendly PBS programming). That is the corporate goal here. Let’s get real.

    The only example of real community-based public broadcasting sponsored by real people I know of in the United States is the Pacifica radio network which receives a small grant from the PBS but accepts NO money from oil companies or the Koch brothers et al. Their radical experiment has survived from its founding in 1948 in Berkeley, California with KPFA-fm and spread to Los Angeles (KPFK), Texas (KPFT), Washington DC (WPFW) and New York City (WBAI).

    Amy Goodman’s DemocracyNow! daily news program is the freest voice I know of in US news and grew out of WBAI. http://www.democracynow.org

    Pacifica is really free speech but struggles as it lurches from financial crisis to crisis.

    Defund PBS and PBS and NPR will be entirely captured by corporate America and will be rebranded the Petroleum Broadcasting System.

    Do you really want that? I know I don’t.

    We should be demanding a doubling, tripling, or quadrupling of PBS funding to free it from having to go to the Koch brother and other billionaires to beg for funds.

    Let’s get real, people!

  8. NPR has to buy its share of this country’s failed economic social structure. I have believed for some time that when NPR learns to truly serve, the served will joyfully pay their freight. The begging sessions are an unnecessary insult. There is too much powder puff and not enough deep muck-raking. Once NPR loses its government subsidy, the station will be more successful than ever. They have a magnificent business model to work with; sharing the hardship will generate a more complete potential.

  9. I think I can make a good argument that it is in the interest of the nation to have a well informed citizenry because well informed citizens are necessary for a direct and participatory democracy. And a direct and participatory democracy is implicit in any discussion of freedom or self-determination. It underpins our society and our “inalienable right” to “the pursuit of happiness” proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence. It is required to be effective in bringing about the structure and processes that people want.

    I think NPR is a good investment in democracy and deserves our support.

  10. Our government IS a large corporation.

    The airwaves are certainly not in the puclic common. They are highly regulated and controlled by the Federal government.

    DemocracyNow is a great example of a totally free market solution. They specifically choose not to accept any government subsidies or funding. And they shun the airwaves themselves (though they make it easy for TV and radio stations to pick them up)

    Again, I’m not sure why everyone thinks the only “free market” solutions are Fox or Koch Bros. Antiwar Radio follows a similar free market approach as DemocracyNow.

  11. Actually it would be interesting given that Sirus/XM is becoming common on newer vehicles to see if NPR could translate there. No need for local transmitters and the like.
    With XM you could subscribe to the NPR channel for a fee if it was useful to you. After all its just making the PBS model into mandatory pledging.

  12. A well informed citizenry doesn’t get their information from the government. I’ve never seen a public school history class cover a Howard Zinn book.

    NPR regurgitates whatever the Press Secretary says.

  13. Stephen A. Boyko

    @ Dan Palanza

    “Once NPR loses its government subsidy, the station will be more successful than ever”

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    Soros opined that the Soviet Union failed because it treated capital as a cost-free byproduct of a political process thereby making it difficult to allocate resources efficiently. The same could be said for NPR and PBS. To illustrate, PBS gave away the licensing rights to Sesame Street’s Big Bird. Can you estimate the number of “beg-a-thons” required to offset that loss of potential revenue?

    Best practice management requires defining your product to be commercially viable rather than self-sustainable.

  14. NPR and PBS are too neo-liberal in their approach to economics, and too conservative in their approach to politics. Seriously. Listen to BBC World for a few days. The difference is astounding. The Republican objection to the public funded media is just that it isn’t conservative or neo-liberal enough. Like the right-of-center Obama, call him a socialist, he isn’t conservative or neo-liberal enough to suit them – same with the public media. I enjoy a lot of cultural programing on NPR, but its politics are crummy.

  15. Not to mention all the time spent mentioning the sponsors of this or that show.

    Often really nasty companies like Archer Daniels Midland.

  16. the NPR stations in my neck of the woods (and vicinity) broadcast BBC world and assorted CBC programming. Given the central bank fueled turmoil in the Arab world the local station has been airing a whole lot of BBC world.

    I can’t emphasize enough that the airwaves are supposed to be public. Instead through media consolidation they have been sold to private corporations that keep getting bigger and bigger… except local public radio.

    Being a published musician, I find the banking + media reality a larger version of the recording + media reality. Not exactly the same, but payola is in effect in both spheres (except MPR – no payola at the Current).

  17. Jacques le Fou

    James – Sorry I don’t have a contentious, unsupported, opinionated post for you. I just wanted to suggest that you add Bob Edwards to your list. Cheapskates like me have found that we can get his weekend broadcast as a podcast.

  18. The Republicans failure to eliminate the tax entitlements of their base and increase revenue establishes that they are only in favor of eliminating expenditures for the democratic base. This is about politics and the Republicans know how to out politic the Democrats. Demonize the other side and de-legitimization them, push through you agenda fast without delay denying the other side a summer to protest and lie (remember the health care debate), and always claim that you are creating jobs and eliminating big government, cut all funding for most government agencies denying enforcement of the law and when the government can not enforce the law blame them for private industry failure.

    Too bad the Democrats fail to understand the politics of the Republicans and learn to use the same tactics against the Republicans. The Democrats are not interested in fighting the class war for the benefit of the middle class. They are content to mouth slogans and do little to nothing, with rare exception.

    Budgets can not be balanced until, the tax entitlements are eliminated. Failure to deal with both sides of the balance sheet is futile. The Republicans seek to privatize most if not all government services and charge the tax payer a premium for the privilege. No has proposed a major and honest audit of the cost of government contracts preformed by private industry vs government employees. A simple look at the cost of private contracts in our current wars vs. the same services that service members provided in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam would be a place to start. But those contracts are too lucrative for the Republican base. They will protect the government’s financial benefit for their base.

    And who will look out fro the benefit of the nation? All I see is money from my pocket going into the pockets of the elite. Talk about waste. Just how much more will they take. It looks like all.

  19. Pledge drives come twice a year for about 5 days each, and they yammer about it for a few minutes before going back to the normal program. Don’t exaggerate since it only shows you have no other credible arguments against public broacasting.
    Everyone should stand up to the republican attempt to cut CPB funding. Go here: http://www.170millionamericans.org/
    Many of these draconian budget cuts represent nothing more than an ideological attempt for the republicans to get rid of programs they don’t like. Pell Grants, Head Start, Public Broadcasting. Republican politicians and their corporate handlers don’t like public broadcasting because Murdock doesn’t own it, and they can’t control it. Today’s republican electoral victories are proportional to the level of ignorance in the electorate. Public broadcasting is bad for ignorance, so they will try to kill it.
    This paper talks about how people who watch Fox are the most ignorant and misinformed:
    “Misinformation and the 2010 Election A Study of the US Electorate”, December 10, 2010.

    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brunitedstatescanadara/671.php?nid=&id=&pnt=671&lb=

  20. The primary purpose of public broacasting is to provide a source of news and credible analyses of public policy that is not influenced by commercial or corporate interests. It is not for entertainment. There is no comparison between NPR, or any other credible news organization, and Fox. Fox is not a news organization, it is a political organization. It would be inappropriate to give them government money.
    Public broadcasting is a proper government function in the same way that public schools, libraries, support for pure scientific research and police and fire departments are proper government functions.

  21. Very good. I agree with you completely.

  22. Sounds like you’ve never listened to NPR.

  23. Herbert Wetherby

    Republican politicians and their corporate handlers don’t like public broadcasting because Murdock doesn’t own it, and they can’t control it. Today’s republican electoral victories are proportional.

    Its abit more complicated and simple at the same time, the people mentioned above just want the law they created to stay in effect. Which is bond holders get paid before everyone else, then they choose which everyone elses are to be cut. To solve this problem, get the lawyers+ect. out of politics, until then its too rigged in their favor.

  24. “It is not for entertainment” — Sure, I get all my news from Car Talk, Wait Wait, All Things Considered, the ramblings of Garrison Keillor.

    Government-funded news may not go as far as propaganda, but it certainly can’t be considered impartial. Compared to boardlinae mainstream voices like Glenn Greenwald or Al Jazeera English or Democracy Now, how critical has NPR been or either the Bush or Obama administrations?

    Basically, you’re OK with poor people subsidizing fluff entertainment like This American Life and news that is rarely as critical as listener-funded or international media.

  25. Unfortunately public radio in the US is almost as much for sale to the highest bidder as commercial radio. They do run ads these days, and the ads are getting worse and worse.

    The solution is a government match program: the government should match listener (but not corporate) contributions less than $100 to public radio in some appropriate ratio (e.g. 2:1, so $100 yields $300 for the station). That way no one can complain that the government is controlling what is on the air (the listeners are, and the government is only matching their dollars).

  26. “Entirely privatized media, media bought and paid for by large corporate private interests has already turned into the corrosive propaganda that today assaults Americans every moment of every day poisoning our nation’s political, cultural, and physical life.”

    Agreed – PROOF is all the predators writing “policy” – that’s NOT a government…and to distract everyone from the massive cultural mutilation, they focus on YOUR crotch – as if THAT is their freekin” business!

    More later on how UNSAFE our communities have become thanks to the Patriot Act and the “ownership” of airwaves,

    but Nihilists, who have LOST every debate, are left with just this ignorant attempt at controlling the conversation, “What is the role of government?”

    If you have to ask….

    Camus noted, how long ago?, “The modern mind is in complete disarray. Knowledge has streched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism.”

    That MANDATED alert over the airwaves should have gone out, and it NEVER did on 911….

  27. @ Rich S.

    Your thoughts are now my thoughts Mr S._ excellent!
    These noxiously minuscule public funding cuts deliberately anesthetizes the majority, but certainly not the minority in which I am a staunch supporter of “All” Public BroadCasting, period!
    Perhaps it’s the valuable analog spectrum their after, or just, their “Stone-Cold-Deafness” regarding the “Would like as much regurgitation of news I can get my feathers around intellectual nestor’s”? :-)

  28. In theory, the broadcasting spectrum is held by the commons. This spectrum is an intangible asset that never degrades or depletes (unlike other resources like oil, gas, coal, water, forest land).

    When the broadcasting spectrum is auctioned off there is less space held by the commons. Much like shopping malls (private property with private security guards) replacing the traditional public square in the centre of town.

    Private broadcasting serves consumers and corporate owners. Public broadcasting serves citizens and democracy.

    At least that is how one argument goes.

    Interesting how the Mubarak government shut down the internet in an effort to quell a peaceful uprising. It seemed to me ordinary Egyptians were just plain fed up after decades under the Mubarak regime. They just could not take it any more.

    What might be happening in the Middle East is social media, the internet, wireless phones, television (Al Jazeera) have fostered that most American of Dreams, a wave of protests by ordinary citizens, demanding that most American of dreams: their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So it is “new media” (rather than entrenched media interests) that has fostered the right to free speech and free association, in the Middle East, with history making consequences.

  29. @ Steve in L.A.

    You obviously realize the worth of broadband spectrum? I’ve followed the auctioning off of airwave spectrum since 1985 and its ramification of who says what to whom and what is said, and actually said?
    I could give you the dates in which certain auctions occurred and who was the purchaser, and competitor of these invaluable licenses/purchases, and the vast ramifications to their bottom line regarding the future survival of said enterprise – all wrapped tightly in Mhz. & Ghz.
    PS. The government’s military owns all spectrum, period! What they dole out is peanuts in reference to what they hold for Nat’l Security. The “Federal Communication Commission *(FCC)” is perhaps the most powerful commission in “Business U.S.A. 4.0″, when it comes to telecommunication grandiose. *(Just ask Colin Powell’s son?)

  30. Sure, there’s lots of entertainment on NPR, but that doesn’t make it the primary purpose. Would it be better if NPR filled the time between news programs in the same way as CNN?
    If you claim that NPR is not impartial, aside from the normal failings in objectivity due to just being human, what is your specific evidence? I hear people all the time say that NPR is equal and opposite to Rush Limbaugh. The burden of proof lies with those who make this claim.
    For someone participating in an economics blog that was started as a result of the financial crisis, I’m surprised that you are not aware of the several excellent programs that This American Life has broadcast in the last couple of years that dealt with various aspects of the crisis. If you were aware of these, you wouldn’t refer to This American Life as fluff entertainment.

  31. That’s not a bad idea.

  32. Here is a “bee in my bonnet” with CBC television:

    I know others feel this way too. In order to compete with CNN, the sometimes-beloved CBC television has adopted the “action movie” approach to telling a story. There are loud noises, dramatic music to tell you how to feel, bright lights, glitz and glamour. CBC television reporters who are so well-trained they use the same mannerisms, gestures, pauses, and “elocution.” The contradiction is there is definitely a CBC television reporter mannerism that tends to be uniform no matter which reporter is delivering the news. In other words, they have a polished natural delivery that does not seem very natural. Come on CBC. You could ppend less money and then we don’t have to deal with those loud television commercials. Where are your focus groups !!!

  33. @Rich S. Who said I’m not aware of the This American Life episodes that deal with “the crisis”?

    Take the recent episode on “The Invention of Money” – http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/423/the-invention-of-money – While entertaining, the 30 minutes on the FED sounds like a 10th grade oral report more than a critical look at monetary policy. But that’s my point… that’s exactly what these NPR shows are — nice, easily digestible entertainment. Contrast these NPR pieces to Joe Stiglitz on Democracy Now.

  34. I am willing to pay a subscription fee for public radio beyond my annual contribution. I have been a devoted listener for 30 years to so many varied programs that have expanded my insights and enriched my life.

    My thought, however, is that while I can afford it, how many listeners who benefit from public radio simply can not afford to pay a subscription? Does public radio then become a “possession” of the have’s and the heck with the less fortunate?

    One of the very appealing and wonderful aspects of public radio is that it IS free to all who wish to tune in offering exposure to alternative programming to the entire spectrum of listeners regardless of the depth of their pocketbooks.

    For example, I can’t think of another easily-accessed, free news source that so thoroughly covered the Supreme Courts as did Nina Totenburg/ATC over the decades. Just an example- but FREE to anyone.

    Public radio is too valuable a source to lose for the common good. No, its not perfect, but this is where one’s critical thinking skills help to filter.

  35. Rich, I listen to NPR all the time, and Dave is both right and wrong: the content on NPR definitely does NOT come from the government, rather it tends to reflect the views of its private, corporate sponsors. If the corporate sponsors want NPR to regurgitate what the Press Secretary says, it will. Since the Press Secretary is basically working for many of those same corporate sponsors, this will usually be the case.

    I haven’t yet read all of the responses to James Kwak’s post, but so far, I haven’t seen an emphasis on the fact that 83 percent of NPR (PBS) broadcasting does NOT come from the federal government.

    Clearly, having 17 percent of its funding cut will not eliminate PBS/NPR from the airwaves because ADM, GE, and other delightful corporations, along with many sincere individuals, will pick up the slack. This will probably not affect the nature of the programming one way or the other.

    The corporations that fund “public broadcasting” ARE the government. However, they are NOT “the public.”

    Got it?

  36. “83 percent of NPR (PBS) broadcasting” — sorry, I meant, 83 percent of NPR (PBS) FUNDING

  37. @EK: that’s a very interesting idea, but it presumes that the U.S. government and our “elected” representatives have an interest in supporting anything “public.”

    Unfortunately, this is not so.

  38. @tippygolden: What also apparently happened in the Middle East was exposure to the concepts elucidated by Gene Sharp in “From Dictatorship to Democracy”:
    http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/FDTD.pdf
    Fascinating reading!

  39. I guess we can say your free riding while your riding in your car.

  40. Bayard Waterbury

    I signed up. I love NPR, and PBS. They don’t always say what I like or show what I want to see, but that’s not the issue. Most of what they say and show can’t be found anywhere else. Their loss would be a great American tragedy of biblical proportions.

  41. Gosh, cedar, I have such mixed feelings on this. Like you, I have enjoyed and learned a lot from various public radio broadcasts over the years.

    And yet I believe that the quality has degraded as the proportion of corporate sponsorship has increased. In the case of the program “Marketplace,” the change for the worse has been pronounced.

    Another thing: the breadth of programming and diversity of views varies widely from one “public” radio station to another. For example, some stations carry “Democracy Now” but many, including those in my area, do not. So I’m afraid that from now on, I must remember to always put quotes about the “public” in “public” radio, because I think that in reality, it has become rather high-brow, elite commercial broadcasting that successfully collects donations (discretionary cash) from a privileged part of its listening audience.

  42. Bayard Waterbury

    James, this is an important post. What it once again demonstrates is that the plutocracy is not interested in having an educated, informed public. If many of us knew everything, it is easy to imagine that we would be having the same kind of rebellious demonstrations that are plaguing nearly every Middle Eastern nation. Most people don’t realize that the level of autocracy in this country is virtually as endemic and pervasive as in most of the nations which are having these problems.

    Almost no one, on a percentage basis, amongst our citizenry, is taking the time or trouble to actually research the level of political and cultural obfuscation which is presently taking place. This attack on public media is only the tip of the iceberg. For anyone who hasn’t done so, I recommend this exercise. It’s wonderful. I did it, and had a surplus of $278 billion:

    http://public-consultation.org/exercise/

  43. I think the special interests of the insiders at NPR weigh heavier on the broadcast decisions made at NPR than the corporate special interests at any other broadcast company. Just my opinion, others are free to disagree. But it is disingenuous to premise your argument by characterizing corporate owned media organizations as susceptible to special interests, without noting that there can be special interests at work at NPR.

  44. Carla, I agree that changes in format for MP as well as ME and ATC have resulted in quality decline from the earlier days. Still worth the listen, in my opinion, although not MP so much.

    JohnD has an excellent point as we have seen significant format/content changes since the new president has taken the reins of NPR a few years ago.

    An issue of concern to me is recent study data that indicates an increasing number of young people get their “news” from entertainment sites or blogs.
    Readers of this blog fully understand that neither of these are real news sources. Pretty scary to me, actually.

    Some of the format changes in NPR have developed to attract a younger demographic- not to my liking- but better than our future decision makers believing that news comes from a blog.

  45. Marc, you have it backwards. Government regulation of spectrum in fact created the stable marketplace in which broadcasting could flourish. And did. That is a proper function of regulation – to establish an order upon which businesses can build and invest. Without radio spectrum management to lower the risk to broadcasters and customers alike, there would have been a chaos of modulation and frequency choice.

    “Business Friendly Support of Free Markets” is simply anarchy in this case. Anyone who has spent time in broadcasting or technical communications fields, understands why this is so. There are times at which the regulations have to evolve to accommodate new technology, but regulation is still very necessary. Mobile telephony is another excellent example of how regulation enabled technology to be deployed in an orderly manner. Was it perfect? No. Was it sufficient? Yes.

    I suggest that you read the early history of radio for a potent illustration of the appropriate role for government regulation with respect to commercial enterprise.

  46. Mr. Kwak seems to miss the obvious.

    As evidenced by his own post, the internet–not terrestrial radio–is increasingly providing more substantive and personalized media content for end-users

    This trend will only accelerate in the next few years.
    Terrestrial radio will simply be replaced by a superior system: wireless internet and intelligent Pandora-like search algorithms. NPR, along with 99.9% of radio stations, will likely go the way of the Dodo or Blockbuster.

    One’s automobile will be an extension of the internet. And like the current internet, the media landscape will be highly decentralized and impervious to outside meddling by interest groups. For good or bad, our society is about to become very, very transparent.

    Fret not. The evil Wall St. plutocracy will have its ox gored as well. The plutocrats–and their most hallowed professions, finance and law–are about to get hit with a wave of AI-induced automation. So perhaps they can stand in the handout line next to Miss Gross.

  47. @cedar: “Some of the format changes in NPR have developed to attract a younger demographic- not to my liking- but better than our future decision makers believing that news comes from a blog.”

    I’m not absolutely sure about that. It depends on the blog.

    But I AM pretty sure that calling something “public” that really isn’t public, but is funded and directed by corporate interests, and then collecting donations from “the public” to maintina the “high quality” of the “non-commercial” programming dictated by or acquiesed to by those corporate interests, is a nefarious business.

    Like you, I still listen to NPR. It’s a habit. A few years ago I gave them what was for me a big contribution, the largest I’ve ever given to any single organization. But I’m done. That habit, I’ve managed to break.

    BTW, I’m on a list and get regular email alerts from http://www.fair.org, the media watchdog group. Any baseline readers not familiar with it might want to check it out.

  48. I’ve given modest amounts of money to both WBEZ and WNYC for TAL and RadioLab, in addition to my usual contributions to WFCR, my local station. And I have bought a lot of back episodes of TAL for $0.99 on iTunes.

  49. ‘The Republicans seek to privatize most if not all government services and charge the taxpayer a premium for the privilege.’
    Thank you Ella, in one sentence you’ve nailed the utter hypocrisy of anti-gov’ment types knee deep in the public trough.

    And it does look like all, especially with our President of Least Resistance(POLR) up there saying ‘we all have to cut back’…after of course cutting taxes for the wealth first.

  50. you’re not supposed to text and drive or search and drive :-)

    and the music is too compressed for my ear via satellite – sounds hollow, tin-y, and is vacant of those classical pauses between notes that are “emotional”…

    and here’s the other thing – people LIKE listening to “free” radio – what kind of marketing doesn’t give a sh_t anymore what people actually LIKE?

    BTW, the business model worked perfectly well for everyone…advertisers, owners, consumers…you name it, everyone could buy some time way cheaper than on TV to let everyone know about the bake sale..

    Yup, military – global military – still carve out the biggest piece of the EMFs…

    All those fancy-pants buckets attached to one thread of gravity are definitely annoying for amateur astronomers…you have to go check whether what you saw was a star dying or a bucket catching a glint of sunlight – sigh.

  51. James: I share your appreciation of Public Radio and, like you, This American Life is one of my favorites. I am also an avid fan of TED and dozens of other excellent video talks and lectures sites. I am confident that if we loose public radio and television that they will continue their good works online. For those of us who appreciate PBS, it will be no problem switching to an exclusive online presence. Jim Melfi, Founder, VideoTalks.org

  52. thanks Carla

  53. I suppose we all may like the warm and fuzzy feeling we get from supporting public radio and TV. But there are so many ways that it could raise funding elsewhere. One example are the childrens’ shows, which could be sold through syndication in many countries. Koreans and Chinese would swoon to have access to English language shows for their youngsters.
    Other radio broadcasters charge for access; why is it so hard for CPB? Cable users already pay subscription fees; have a surcharge for PBS products to be channelled to them. Perhaps they are really afraid of subjecting their products to a markest test.

    Filling that 17% CPB funding gap shouldn’t be that great a challenge!

  54. … because it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life

  55. Another suggestion for a podcast

    On Point with Tom Ashbrook (WBUR- Boston)

    I find this show the most topical, well paced and informative on the radio. To me, it’s in a class by itself – I believe Simon has been a guest.

  56. I stopped donating to NPR when I discovered it was playing along with the lies and deceptions prevalent on other media outlets.

    When you start harping on cave dwelling and this and that other nonsense, the management running the enterprise is clueless, and is into fantasy-lines of drivel.

  57. progressiveagentprovocateur

    I think a reasonable answer would be a check off box on the IRS tax form with a simple question:
    “Would you like to donate $5 to support Public Media in the US?”
    For every $5 donated by taxpayers the government could match it 1-1 and this would take the politics out of it as those who pay taxes would essentially be voting on how much to fund it.

  58. How can poor people who don’t pay taxes vote to NOT divert limited government funds from the matching?

  59. Adam Washington

    NPR: Tax the poor so mid- to upper-6-digit-income lawyers won’t have to pay for their entertainment.

  60. Sorry, is someone actually claiming that public broadcasting is tantamount to a pro-government propaganda machine? Really? Are they the same people claiming it’s also a haven for leftie, America-hating intellectuals, or do they take turns.

  61. But I thought poor people were subsidizing NPR, now they’re not subsidizing anything since they don’t pay tax? Maybe you’re The Other Dave.

    “Basically, you’re OK with poor people subsidizing fluff entertainment like This American Life and news that is rarely as critical as listener-funded or international media.”

  62. There are multiple levels of poverty in the US. Many stuggling families pay taxes and therefore directly subsidize everything the government does. But, many people claim so little income that the government doesn’t bother taking any extra money on April 15. However, both groups subsidize public broadcasting – maybe not through direct taxation, but certainly through getting less services that they really use.

    $1 to NPR, in a set government budget, is $1 that can’t support another more meaningful program. In the model proposed above, the governmernt would assist in diverting $2 – one from the private contribution and one from their own budget.

    But this entire argument is insane when you consider how small public broadcasting funding is compared to our military, defense, foreign policy, and ongoing veteran support budgets are.

  63. @ Dave

    Can’t for the life of me figure out why we don’t privatize our military. Oh…that’s right – we already do?

  64. ezra abrams

    what took you so long to figure out brooks ?
    he isn’t as slick as his teacher, W Safire, who was a master at claiming the reasoanble center whilst slipping venom soaked ultra right wing disinformation into an argument