Why Public Media Broadcasting is Still Important in our World

When I was incarcerated,  I loved listening to radio shows on National Public Radio (NPR) such as ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘All Things Considered.’ To be honest, I had never listed to NPR before I was incarcerated and had no idea the wide variety of shows that they aired across the country.  These shows served as a life line for me personally and helped me get through the darkest times of my life.

But what about the average listener or viewer?  Is public broadcasting still a viable source for information, news and entertainment?  YES.


America’s unique public broadcasting system is a collaboration of 1,300 local non-commercial radio and television stations that meet the standards of and are supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  They work with each other and with hundreds of national and local producers and community partners to ensure that Americans have universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming with a particular focus on the needs of undeserved audiences, including children, minorities, and low-income Americans. Learn the history of public broadcasting which began in 1967.



Pat Aufderheide and Noelle McAfee of American University’s Center for Social Media say that Public media converts raw data into comprehensible narratives of real life, provides knowledge for political action, fosters talk that leads to solutions, inspires and alerts us with history, and reminds Americans that they can have respectful give-and-take on issues.  What I personally enjoy about public broadcasting is that it fosters talk that lead to solutions in our local communities.  Here’s an example: after PBS’s Point of View (POV) aired ‘Farmingville’, a documentary about community conflict in Long Island, N.Y., over illegal immigration, the film triggered talk at community meetings all over the country, including places where the same conflicts were brewing. The film helped officials and community leaders meet with people they might never have met and to search out better answers together.  In Virginia, The Community Idea Stations use the Power of Media to Educate, Entertain and Inspire.  They focus on public broadcasting programming in several areas:  arts, history, science, news and children’s education.  In addition, the hour-long ‘Virginia Currents’ specials raise awareness about resources in the community for domestic-violence victims, green affordable housing and more.

Public broadcasting also assists in educational pursuits.  ‘American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen‘ is public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help keep youth on the track to a high school diploma and beyond. Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), more than 128 public radio and television stations have joined forces with more than 1,700 partners and at-risk schools across 48 states and one territory.

Public media plays a significant role building individual activity, community capacity, and national awareness.


By looking at the differences between mainstream media vs. alternative media (public broadcasting), we can get a better idea of what their main goals are.  Mainstream media includes television, radio, online, and press such as magazines, journalists, and newspapers. They are network based and usually easy to find and reach large audiences. While many claim they don’t have anything to do with the government behind closed doors they are government funded, ran, and owned, but some have not given into that pressure.

They use entertainment to spread news and entice the public. They often report on an entire range of news stories that are based off of how many viewers they have and what stories are preferred over others.

On the other hand, public broadcasting outlets are usually smaller in size and in many cases are polarized towards conservative and liberal perspectives. They are also found online, on the radio, in the paper, and other publication to a lesser extent on television. They usually have less funding and smaller budgets.

It is composed of an alternative public world, a world of protest and political dialogue that has an oppositional role and improves democracy. If there’s no resistance there is no democracy. Take a look at this list comparing mainstream and alternative:

The diagram below displays an example of what you will find on each media outlet, neither are limited to these things. Courtesy: https://lisahavennews.net

Courtesy: https://lisahavennews.net


Community Voice from Arkansas Community Organizations

Community Voice from Arkansas Community Organizations

A public radio station that I just learned about recently is KABF, Community Radio, ‘The Voice of the People, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The station is a listener supported, non-profit 501(c)3 organization airing approximately eight radio shows including,It Could Be You‘, hosted by long time radio DJ, John S.  ‘It Could Be You’ is a forum for thought-provoking discussion and sharing information, spring-boarding from two general bases about purpose: 1) to help create safer communities; and 2) to help improve communities. Cooperative, collaborative discussion will explore various approaches to ensuring public safety, rehabilitating offenders, alleviating homelessness, and exploring ideas about what we can do to work together to strengthen our communities.  John focuses on guests that are Ex-Offenders and/or their family members; University Professors; Therapists; Attorneys; Authors; Clergy; Law Enforcement Personnel; Community Activists; groups & persons working for social, legal, and/or criminal justice reform.

I had learned about the station and John’s show through Vicki Allen (WAR) and Janice Bellucci (ACSOL).  They were recently interviewed on the show about the July, 2016 Oakland, CA protest against International Megan’s Law and ‘passport identifiers’ which will now be marked on all registered sex offenders’ passports. Metamora Films was there to film this historic protest (watch the film coverage) in downtown Oakland.

On October 12, 2016 I will be a guest on the show talking about sex offender issues including how it affects families, advocacy and how Metamora Films is using the power of film to bring awareness to social justice issues.  John had recently interviewed a law professor-attorney whose son is on the sex offender registry due to autism:

(made available through KABF, Community Radio, 88.3 FM, in Little Rock, Arkansas.  www.kabf.org)


Public broadcasting is local: Stations are locally licensed and governed, locally programmed, and locally staffed. In many rural areas, public broadcasting is the only source of free local, national and international news, public affairs, and cultural programming.

Public broadcasting is a great investment: Unlike public broadcasting systems throughout the world, America’s public broadcasters do not rely upon the government as their primary source of funding.  On average, federal funding amounts to less than 14% of a station’s budget, with the remaining 86% coming from local sources.(1)  However, this federal support is critical seed money for local stations which leverage each federal dollar to raise over six more dollars from local sources in order to provide the American public with the highest quality programming and services.

Public broadcasting reflects the values of viewers and listeners, not advertisers.. America has tremendous diversity of broadcasting outlets, but only public broadcasting is commercial free.  This is one reason why public broadcasting is so highly trusted by the American people.

Public broadcasting is more important than ever: The rapidly changing media environment is making public broadcasting more and more vital as a source of unbiased news, local cultural programming, and non-commercial educational programs designed to enhance the quality of life of our local communities.  Public broadcasting is a source of children’s programming, public affairs, music, and culture information that is often not provided by other sources.

Public broadcasting provides vital programming for parents and children:  While certainly there are other media options for parents and children, only public broadcasting offers children’s programming free from commercial considerations. Public broadcasting has the best interests of children as its sole objective. This is one reason why parents and teachers trust public broadcasting, and why maintaining our public broadcasting system is so important.

Public Media Embraces the Digital Future:  Public broadcasting content is now available through broadcast, cable, satellite, satellite radio, the Internet, and wireless devices.  Public broadcasting is committed to a multi-platform presence, to be available anywhere at anytime to the public it serves. Local stations partner with museums, libraries and other community organizations to make great content available to the public for free on mobile devices and online.  They are teaming up with start-ups and innovators to break new ground in educational and informational materials.

(1) SOURCE: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting Revenue, September 2009


L.B._Johnson signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

L.B._Johnson signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law on November 7, 1967, he described its purpose as:

“It announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than a ‘chicken in every pot.’ We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man’s spirit. That is the purpose of this act.

“It will give a wider and, I think, stronger voice to educational radio and television by providing new funds for broadcast facilities. It will launch a major study of television’s use in the Nation’s classrooms and its potential use throughout the world. Finally — and most important — it builds a new institution: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”


-Matt Duhamel, Filmmaker/Host

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