CPB – Subsidizing American Culture or Unnecessary Intermediary

Should the CPB continue to receive tax payer dollars?

On one hand, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds some of the most well known American culture icons – Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Nightline, among them. Programs and lessons that shaped my childhood and the childhoods of everyone I know.

On the other hand, the CPB is structured in such a way that the reigning administration pulls the purse strings. As Mike O’Connor has stated repeatedly, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

This begs the question on the definition of “public”. Are we talking “publicly funded” or “created by the public”?. Tax dollars are public monies funding all sorts of services only a subset of us (the public) agrees with at any given time; highways, Medicare, Iraq War, education, parks, space travel. Seems to me, financing extremely large projects that none of us can accomplish individually is what governments and taxes are for. Whether we as individual investors fully appreciate them or not. Does the CPB’s mission fall into the ‘bigger than all of us’ category?

The fact you’re reading this weblog means CPB’s current model is expiring. As Jeff Jarvis states, It’s time to..

“Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting in an era when the public can broadcast.”

The no-barrier-to-entry of weblogs, podcasts, and videoblogs has caused an explosion in self-publishing. All produced independent of CPB funding. From this public is “created by the public” angle KYOU – a Clear Channel AM station – may actually be more public than NPR.

If I’m reading CPB’s site accurately, a full 26% of their funding comes from memberships. Less than 15% of their funding is from Congress – about $370 million dollars. If as Evol mentions, $370 million breaks down to $1.25 per year per American, then we need to find a way for each American to easily – and independently – invest $12.50 to continue supporting public broadcasting. Making it easier for citizens to become customers as Doc Searls states. Ideally on a per-production basis rather than at the network level. This will transform the “money sucks but we need to pay the electric bill” fund drives to an actual marketplace where Americans have direct control over what’s called “public broadcasting.”

With this, I challenge PBS to change the “take action now” link at PBS.org from “call your congressman” to “give us $12.50”. Same challenge for NPR. Hell, I’ll happily flag my $12.50 for experimental and new programs.

Otherwise next year, it’ll be deja vu all over again.

One thought on “CPB – Subsidizing American Culture or Unnecessary Intermediary

  1. That’s whut UMMM sayin’ Garrick!

    Good points, all. The current model forces local NPR affiliates into a competition for donations in the same market. No franchise business gives away product in the same “sales” area and survives in a competitive environment.

    So, either CPB/PBS/NPR needs to restructure to function in a competitive environment or it needs to be funded, in the public interest, as the national treasure it is.

    Privatizing everything in the government is not answer… the incessant attacks of CPB funding is an effort to do exactly that to an institution that should be held in the public trust.

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