Tom Taylor’s newsletter reports on yet another brick in the wall, this one a University of Minnesota radio station taking a hit from a taxpayer-funded organization, the CPB:
Low ratings cost the University of Minnesota’s KUOM $50,000 in federal funding.
It’s not that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is pressing stations to be #1 – but it wants to assure that the non-commercial combo is reaching a meaningful audience before spending taxpayer dollars. The student MNDaily paper says the station’s blaming the Arbitron PPM. “Radio K” marketing director Alex Gaterud says the PPM system is “technologically unreliable” and not exactly ideal for reaching the alternative station’s audience – which is heavily college students. The CPB grant has been for $50,000 a year, which supplements the $250,000 Radio K gets from student fees. Radio K is KUOM-AM/FM (770 and 106.5).
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will cut off these college stations for not “performing” well enough, this after doling out $50,000,000 in taxpayer dollars so our local “public” radio stations could make a down payment on junk HD radio channels. As reported here earlier, the CPB itself has waffled on that huge outlay: “A report commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting called Public Radio in the New Network Age says that ‘for the near term, HD2 and HD3 channels are not a viable choice for the presentation of multiple, differentiated services aimed to reaching measurable audiences.’” Oops, my bad.
The CPB, you see, wants these stations to chase the ratings, else get cut off. Which means dancing to the Purple People Meter — moving to mainstream pop (or pap) to secure the numbers the government suits demand. Longtime readers might remember this post, “The CPB Bull in the China Shop,” which carried warnings from a 1997 Cato Institute study, “With Friends Like These: Why Community Radio Does Not Need the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” warning about the negative effects of the CPB:
Congress created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund alternatives to commercial television and radio. Such alternatives include “community radio” stations, stations defined by their devotion to local programming and programming outside the mainstream. Those outlets are usually located in the noncommercial band and funded by listener subscriptions.
But the availability of CPB subsidies has grossly distorted the stations’ goals. However well-intentioned, CPB rules pressure community radio stations to replace volunteers with paid staff and to abandon diverse, experimental local programming for more bland fare….
Though federal funds have undeniably assisted many stations, they have also encouraged many broadcasters to forget their traditional mission. The CPB has fostered a new professional class within the community radio movement, a group that has accumulated power at volunteers’ expense and promoted more streamlined, predictable programming. And while most community broadcasters continue to be grateful for any support their small stations can acquire, others are beginning to wonder if it is worth the price [emphasis added].
So with a single stroke of the pen, the CPB has joined forces with the bean counters extinguishing free-form radio on university campuses such as Rice and Vanderbilt. Ralph Waldo Emerson once suggested, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” No mention of the solons of public radio — though their sense of entitlement with our taxpayer dollars reeks of divinity.