Having It Both Ways

Todd Urick, writing on the site Common Frequency (link on right), shared some words of wisdom in the item “Push to Grow the Audience.” It details his take on what we’ve called the manifest-destiny model in public radio nowadays:

Station Resource Group in coordination with CPB recently released its final report in their “Grow the Audience” series. Just the title of it explains the most important priority in public media now: growth. One has to question whether public media is venturing too far into commodification (too late), pressuring stations to perform better at whatever the cost. It is obvious in commercial radio that appealing to the lowest common denominator brings the most ratings. For years NPR has been the alternative to this formulation, offering programming that may be considered a little more thought provoking. It is almost intuitively seen that some listen to NPR merely because it is the only alternative to commercial radio. But what happens when NPR tries to step over that line to take a dip of the commercial audience that simply don’t consider themselves public radio listeners. Let’s face it, many people in American culture have differing tastes when it comes to news, e.g., what is Paris Hilton up to, or image of Jesus shows up on a pancake. Can NPR appeal to these people without losing its “intelligent” audience? Does NPR assume these listeners won’t drop NPR simply because there is no other alternative on the radio (except for LPFM — and maybe that is why NPR sides against LPFM?). The report proposes the desire to double the number of people using public media each week in the next decade; that’s quite a goal.

The worrisome detail in public radio’s history is it has gutted what was once community and college radio — stations with different personalities every place you venture in the US. NPR affiliates were once these type of stations until station managements cleaned house. NPR affiliates are like McDonalds franchises nowadays: no matter where you go, you can expect the same. Although, some NPR affiliates have a community-tinged local approach. This is slowly disappearing under the pressure of the likes of “grow the audience.” Its unfortunate that the final report does not mention “localism” since the FCC has talked so much about this in the last few years. And for music recommendations: expansion of classical, jazz, and AAA.  Although classical and jazz are respectable staples, what about independent artists and new genres of music, or anything appealing to young adults?

The further commodification of public radio is an even louder cry to license more community and LPFM stations.

This just begged for comments from interested parties:

Public radio plays lip service to “localism” — witness the takeover of free-form Rice radio in Houston by the U of H (which already owns a public station) to air canned classical music. Nationwide, public radio bean counters are reading the tea leaves of Arbitron and going Triple A tripe, following the lead of commercial stations. But then, of course, when its funds are threatened, you’ll see this kind of quote from American Public Media’s 170MillionAmericans.org: “Federal funding provides the margin of revenue needed by local stations to produce quality local programs and to make a market for national producers.” Followed by the pious bleatings about the mission “to ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens, and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and minorities.”

The final installment of open records released to Jim Radio of Austin Airwaves describing the Rice public-relations debacle speak to the enthusiasm of those involved in station expansion. Not much is revealed in the attached PDFs released after a (worthless?) review by the attorney general’s office, aside from putting a date on the current finagling as about this time last year — unless you’d find it interesting that it also marked the date when the station was put back on the market. More germane to this piece is the sheer neat-o exuberance exhibited by the director of acquisitions for Public Radio Capital in speeding the deal along and the by-gosh 007 subterfuge in keeping this state secret from the general public.

12-21-10 Docs from AG’s office to be produced to Ellinger (with redactions) part 3

12-21-10 Docs from AG’s office to be produced to Ellinger (with redactions) part 4

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2 Responses

  1. […] On KDRP (link on right). Larry has revived the free-form shows “Blue Monday” and the “Phil Music Program” eviscerated on Austin’s “public” radio station, moves that, along with others, triggered the saveKUTaustin protest movement. Larry is now free of the moneyed suits — the best and the brightest — whose hot pursuit of Arbitron numbers, corporate support, and, not inconsquentially, their own fame and fortune pace the consolidators’ rush to the mundane, belying the clarion call of the movement espoused on the website 170millionamericans.org — “to ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens, and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and minorities” (see “Having It Both Ways,” here). […]

  2. […] the side in the quest for manifest destiny at our “public” radio stations. As reported here, a post called “Having It Both Ways,” the current push for support in face of […]

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