Public Media Needs Funding, Focus Changes

Barbara Cochran, in a new paper, says that increasing local staff to include a more diversified and digital-savvy workforce is one key to improving public media’s draw, along with taking advantage of digital opportunities.

For public TV and radio to truly serve communities, there must be fundamental changes in outlets’ leadership, structure and funding, according to a new paper by a broadcast journalism expert.

“Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive” by University of Missouri journalism professor and former RTDNA President Barbara Cochran, calls on public media to be more inclusive by diversifying staff and content, as well as through community engagement.

Released this morning at an Aspen Institute roundtable in Washington, Cochran’s paper is one of the first in-depth looks at means of implementing recommendations to better meet community information needs made last year by the Knight Commission.

Those recommendations included the creation of universal broadband and fostering civic engagement, government transparency and bolstering both local and public media.

Increasing local staff, to include a more diversified and digital-savvy workforce, is key to improving public media’s draw, Cochran said.

“Public television stations, which for the most part produce little local news and information programming, should form a study group to develop a strategy for more news content and community engagement,” the paper said.


According to Cochran, taking advantage of digital opportunities—including content sharing—is one means public TV and radio stations can further reach audiences.

So is increasing public media’s role in the development of the nation’s broadband policy, as one that would guarantee access, reduce costs of streaming and other technology that would improve community reach, she said.

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