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Public Broadcasting and the Problem of Government Influence

A network of independent, noncommercial television and radio stations that operate with public and government funding instead of with revenues from advertising

Both the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) are fully public institutions that seek to broadcast accurate, simple, and unbiased information to each location where they are located. Both television and radio stations that fall within this spectrum can better connect with the local population because they share a similar style of culture and language, allowing them to create programming that is more in tune with the location.

However, one of the significant problems that have hindered the growth of Public Broadcasting is the limited options they have to develop. This fact has caused people to turn to private news outlets, which despite being biased, have a type of opinion that may be more in line with public sentiment.

As a result, the viability of Public Broadcasting is being called into question, making the number of viewers and listeners dwindling. All indications are that although the medium has multiple possibilities for growth, its two main problems are from the government: regulations and lack of funding.

Why are these situations affecting the quality of Public Broadcasting?

The two situations we have already mentioned are considered to be the ones that delay the development of Public Broadcasting towards a type of information and programming more in line with the area. However, we must study why each one and how there can be a resolution to this type of problem.

To do so, we will divide more situations to explain and deal with them in a better way:

  • Lack of funding

While it is true that the stations that are part of the Public Broadcasting Service have funding from the state, most of the time, this is not enough to achieve the total funding of the station. This situation makes the station seek funding from other sponsors to carry out better programming adapted to the tastes of their followers.

Among the means of financing taken are paid advertising, fundraising campaigns, fundraising events and donations. Among all those included here, the most viable means that usually raises the most funds is through donations given by different entities to the stations.

However, these donations are issued by third parties that may differ in opinions concerning the government and its institutions. As a result, this type of donation becomes a sponsorship practically: the station receiving the donation leans the information and its opinion to whoever is making the payments to it.

For its part, the state, upon seeing this situation, responds in a way that may not be considered the most appropriate: regulations against bias. This fact drives the station against the wall, degrading its programming and thus losing followers.

A clear example of this is the situation that is currently happening, where it is indicated that PBS currently has programming that is biased toward political tendencies opposed to those of the government. As a counterpart, more regulations are pronounced to stop this.

  • Regulations

As we said, Public Broadcasting exists to supply a right to American citizens with truthful and accessible information. On these stations, the average citizen can get information about the country’s situation, some international situations or even local events and news.

Since it is a public organization, the state is the one who usually finances these stations, allowing them to decide what type of information is viable to be placed within their programming.

This regulation affects broadcasting in two ways: first, any information contrary to the government’s opinion is wholly denied as unbiased. On the other hand, it dramatically limits the number of programs that can be broadcasted and avoids a repertoire in line with the opinion within the area.

To avoid this problem, citizens turn to private media that are less restrictive in receiving and broadcasting information. Although paid, they are considered more viable for obtaining opposing opinions.

What are the consequences of this situation?

The first of all is the decline of public journalism. Various numbers indicate the decline of public newspapers by approximately 60% since 2006. Being so limited in creating news or radio programs also makes reporters more inclined to work with private institutions that are less reclusive.

The quality of information has also been limited and is much less attractive. In a public medium, it is estimated that 35 to 40% of the programming is based on traffic, weather, and local sports. The rest of the programming is usually minimal, and even some topics, such as politics, are reduced to only 3%.

The lack of variety has caused citizens to begin to bypass the public media in favor of more varied private broadcasters. Finally, it is possible that this situation could be reversible, but it would involve the state starting to act in favor of the affected sector.

This situation could lead to more appreciated public broadcasting regarding information and entertainment value.

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