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Journalism educators support funding for public broadcasting

March 28, 2011

The nation’s largest association representing journalism and media scholars is urging the U.S. Senate to reject a House-passed measure that would eliminate funding for public broadcasting.

The announcement from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication was made today in a press release that went out to its membership and media organizations.

The entire press release is below: 

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) encourages the Senate to reject a provision in a House­-passed budget bill that would devastate public media and, instead, to protect funding for broadcasting in the public interest.  

Last month, House law makers voted to eliminate funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes federal funds that support operations at 1,300 local public broadcasting stations. While federal funding is just a portion of station budgets (almost 14 percent, on average), it is critical to the ability of those stations to operate and to raise additional funding. Research indicates that local stations hardest hit by these cuts would be those in rural areas, where federal dollars are almost half of some stations’ operating budgets and where there are fewer sources of news for residents and the threat of a “digital divide” for access to information is more pronounced than in urban areas.  

Objections to federal funding of public media have, in part, been based on the mistaken belief that the government has no obligation to fund the”Fourth Estate.” 

The Carnegie Commission, formed in 1965 to examine the role of broadcasting in U.S. democracy, released its report two years later calling for a public broadcasting system that would be available “to all the people of the United States: a system that in its totality will become a new and fundamental institution in American culture” for the “full needs of the American public” to be served. 

The AEJMC believes that the need for such a publicly funded system has not diminished in the decades since the Commission’s report. Indeed, as the issues facing Americans become increasingly complex, the need for public broadcasting designed to “help us see America whole, in all its diversity” is greater than ever. 

As research also points out, commercial media enterprises have —-   for most of this country’s history —-   received federal assistance in the form of discounted postal subsidies and tax breaks, for instance. Yet, Americans trust public media more for relevant, complete news. A recent Roper Poll listed PBS as the nation’s most-­trusted institution. In the 2010 poll, 45 percent of respondents said they trust PBS more than any other nationally known organization. PBS ranked at the top in  public trust among every age group, ethnicity, income and education level measured. Second in trust are “courts of law,” which are trusted a great deal by 26 percent. PBS  ranks highest in importance among 58 percent of respondents when compared to commercial broadcasting (43 percent) and cable television (40 percent). 

A recent report by researchers at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and  Policy suggests that increased funding for public broadcasting might be advisable. 

The AEJMC also urges lawmakers, journalists and the public to engage in discussion that will  move the debate beyond simply whether public broadcasting should or should not be federally funded. As scholars and activists point out, the way public broadcasting is funded —-   through a process that involves partisan decision-­making  every budget cycle —-   needs to be scrutinized so public media can better meets its obligations to democracy.

This statement was issued by the President of AEJMC and through the President’s Advisory Council

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. The Association’s mission is to advance education, foster scholarly research, cultivate better professional practice and promote the free  flow of communication.

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