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Public Broadcasting in the US

I’m interested in the Public Broadcasting model in the US. Here in the UK, public broadcasting is taking licks but most people really trust the BBC. It only hurts when the licence fee has to be paid ( It’s roughly $260 a year ). We grow up trusting “Auntie Beeb” ( it was funny to see the marines in “Generation Kill” listening to the BBC for news and getting cricker scores! ).

As I understand it Public Broadcasting is largely sponsored and locally funded by pledge drives. There is a small proprtion of federal funding as well?

So, what I would be interested in is how large the takeup is. Is it largely from one demographic? Do people who watch PBS also watch BBC America? Just how annoying are the pledge drives?

In return, I’m happy to give feedback on any questions you might have on the UK scene. It’s not all antique shows and Alexa Chung! ( actually it is pretty heavy on Property shows )

I believe there is a fair amount of public (government) support. I know at least the % of support coming from the government has been decreasing, I don’t recall how much.

Check out:

Local NPR stations are mostly funded by pledge drives and underwriters. A small amount of the local station funding (about 2%) comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gets its funding from the U.S. Government.

The problem with public radio in the U.S. is most of its commentators are liberal. Conservative commentators would never work for the salaries NPR pays its commentators, so they go to AM talk radio stations, where they can make megabucks. It’s the classic self-fulfilling prophecy we see in higher education as well. Conservatives follow the money, leaving altruistic liberals to take the teaching jobs. Then, conservatives complain about the liberal bias that exists on NPR and in education. If conservatives were really interested in resolving this bias, they could. They would just have to take lower salaries to do so. Instead, they exploit this bias as a wedge issue, which is far more valuable to them than solving the problem.

It would be a shame to lose federal funding. Many people especially in rural areas rely on PBS/NPR for their information and news. I think they provide a great service along with entertainment. The pledge drives are not bad and usually only happen a couple times a year.
I do watch some BBC America programs (just got hooked on Law & Order UK) and enjoy listening to BBC news reports. (which are broadcast on NPR stations in my area at night) Nice to get a different perspective on things.

It is a little weird hearing Jamie Bamber with an english accent even if he is english!

Some BBC programmes are available online from -
altho they may have disabling watching outside the UK.

It is worth checking out Radio 4 podcasts
This is the BBC’s talk station and has a nice mixture of heavyweight analysis and good old fashioned eccentricity. Worth a look around.

Forgot to mention the BBC web site is one of my favorites as a source for news as well.

“It would be a shame to lose federal funding. Many people especially in rural areas rely on PBS/NPR for their information and news. I think they provide a great service along with entertainment.” Since federal funding is such a small portion of NPR’s budget, it wouldn’t matter if the federal funding were cut or even eliminated entirely. As for the “rural areas” stuff, that’s what NPR tells us, but I want to see numbers. NPR supplies programming, it doesn’t run radio stations. Stations in rural areas could get programming without NPR. According to NPR’s chief, NPR has around 38 million listeners, i.e. less than 1/10 of the U.S. population.

The “rural areas” justification is booogus, as the vast majority of NPR stations are FM, and therefore of limited range. Additionally, people in rural areas are free to get satellite radio. Can’t afford $15 a month? You have bigger problems than information and news.

I understand that the airwaves were “deregulated” so that news no longer had to be impartial. Which appears to mean ( at least from a distance ) that you get a choice between Fox News and Jon Stewart depending on what you prefer.

To pad out the rolling 24 hour news on the BBC they often have half an hour of CBS news which appears to be fairly impartial.

The rule of “older man, younger woman” as news anchors is something we have borrowed from you. The only time you see “young man, young woman” is on the rolling Sports channels ( like SKY ) - the guys often look like models for after-shave and the girls look like Victoria’s Secrets models. It makes it harder to concentrate on the latest soccer transfers!

I’m not clear on what you mean by “I understand that the airwaves were “deregulated” so that news no longer had to be impartial.” If you mean the Equal Time provision, that had a very limited application. There was never a legal or regulatory requirement that news programming be impartial.

“Which appears to mean…that you get a choice between Fox News and Jon Stewart depending on what you prefer.” Both are cable only and not affected by any laws regarding “the airwaves”.

To be fair, the network news shows are as impartial as you could reasonably expect. That includes Fox. People conflate Fox’s personality and opinion shows with their news operation, which is unfortunate. Their personality and opinion shows are most definitely and unapologeticaly right leaning. Car Talk is left leaning, or it wouldn’t be on NPR.

“The “rural areas” justification is booogus, as the vast majority of NPR stations are FM, and therefore of limited range.”

I guess you haven’t seen the coverage maps then. About 90% of my state or better is covered, and believe me there are many rural areas covered there. Many of those it’s the only station you can pick up. NPR doesn’t rely on ad. profits to determine where they will put a transmitter.
Your satellite radio comment doesn’t hold water either. How much local news and weather can you get from one?

This link discusses both the history and the funding for PBS.

PBS truely does a phenominal job. But in these times of cuts in the (NH) court system, letting prisoners out early to save money (again, NH), cuts in services to the needy, and hiring freezes in needed public service position, the question of whether the public tax coffers should be funding a public broadcast system when there are countless educational venues available is a tough one to debate. In 1970, when PBS orriginated, there were only the major networks. But cable, satallite infrastructures, and especially the internet, have changed the scenerio. As much as I enjoy PBS, perhaps technology has made public funding for it no longer justifiable.

Yes, those of us who watch PBS also watch BBC. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen numerous excellent BBC specials broadcast on PBS, as well as some of my favorite situation comedys. BBC does outstanding work and I commend them.

I’ve never heard of Alexa Chung. But I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen for the UK except the classical programs and the mysteries (not my “thing”).

UK and the BBC. Sorry you have to pay so much, without a choice, that is wrong. Honestly, I’ve looked at a lot the BBC puts out, and besides the news (which generally does a better job reporting US stories than our media), Top Gear, and F1 coverage - there isn’t a whole lot to rave about.

On the US side, first - sorry PBS, etc., but we the public taxpayers are not flush with cash and can no longer afford non-essential Govt. programs. We want to be responsible citizens and downsize Govt. so we can pour everything we can tax wise into paying off our huge public debt (which is about $225,000 for MY household of 5 alone). Sorry China and Japan, we don’t want to continue making your boat payments.

Second, it’s 2011, not 1970. Stop thinking old school broadcast media. There are MANY choices for media these days - and to be honest locally broadcast media is about my last choice. I prefer on-demand media on my computer or phone. So maybe they should look at this as an opportunity to embrace change to IP based media, instead of winning about not being able to steal my tax dollars to pay for a local station’s transmitter.

Huzzah! You spurn the tyrant’s heel!

You’re right in that I didn’t make my point well at all. What I should have said was that listeners in rural areas will continue to be served by AM stations, which have a much longer range than FM stations, which most NPR stations are.

“NPR doesn’t rely on ad. profits to determine where they will put a transmitter.” Does NPR build transmitters? Didn’t know that. Do you?

“South Dakota Public Broadcasting, or SDPB for short, is a network of PBS television and NPR radio stations serving the state of South Dakota. The stations are operated by the South Dakota Bureau of Information and Telecommunication, a state agency.”

There it is. No need to donate to NPR. Your state and my federal tax dollars are handling it.

“Your satellite radio comment doesn’t hold water either. How much local news and weather can you get from one?” How much do you get from NPR? Precisely none. Have they no windows in South Dakota?

Public broadcasting fund rasiers and pledge drives are boring. But, the alternative is ads which are worse.

Federal funds provide a base for public broadcasting but the majority of funds come from pledge drives. Federal contribution could be more for some stations than others depending on the markets they operate within.

Rural areas do benefit from public broadcasting. I travel a lot and you can find public radio in the remote areas of the US. It is not just urban radio.

I do listen to BBC news on US public radio and find it gives a perspective on the news that is useful. It isn’t always rah rah USA in its coverage.

It seesm govt. funding for public broadcasting is under attack from GOP reps and senators who want to deminish the impact of public radio. I find public radio to be non biased but those who only want to hear conservative dogma find public radio to be liberal. When polictical viewpoints dominate and monoplize the media you have scenarios such as we see in Egypt and throughout the middle east now. State controlled media isn’t freedom.

Conservatives would say public broadcasting is too liberal. Liberals will say paid advertising media in a talk radio format is now too conservative. It seems conservative talk radio shows are “hot” now. Rush Limbaugh and his stable mates are racking in the ratings and ad dollars that go along with it. Take public radio out of the picture and conservative political rhetoric will dominate the airwaves in the US.

Quite honestly, it’s getting hard to tell the difference between the major PBS program sponsor’s announcements and commercials.

Since when has NPR or PBS reported local news? If I want local weather, events, traffic reports, and local news, I go to the AM band.
Most of the stuff on Public radio and TV is pure entertainment, not news or information.

One of the main benefits of the BBC is no ads! ( well apart from the station promos ). Thankfully, I mostly watch recorded TV and kill the ads on the other channels.

Public broadcasting here is a political issue but more in the media than in the public. A lot of the press is right-leaning and regularly pillories the BBC for it’s “Leftie” tendencies. According to them the BBC is run by "sandal-earing, muesli-ating, tree-ugging liberals ". The Left also piles in saying the BBC is " run by elitist, misogynist,ageist men ". It’s either too pro-american or too anti-american! So by the law of averages it must be fairly neutral if it pisses everyone off!

In fact the main problem is that the BBC slavishly copies other channels and as a result pumps out a lot of dross - reality,property,celebs - just to get ratings. At the moment they are trying to move the HQ to Manchester ( an industrial town in “the north” ) just to show that it is " not elitist and London-centric " ( yes, they really do use that language! ).

One thing we don’t have - either on public or commercial - are character-based political commentators like ( for example ) Glenn Beck. The commercial channels rarely do politics - it’s just not “sexy”. The political output of the BBC is even-handed - some interviwers try to “rough up” the interviewee a little but it’s fairly tame. Opinion shows like “Question Time” ( a live audience asks a panel of politicos questions ) always have someone from the Government and opposition.

Lately, some politicos have tried to “spice up” their image by appearing on the comedy quiz shows that litter the schedules. It works sometimes but more often than not they are revealed as wannabees.

B.L.E., each NPR station is run differently. For example, the one in South Florida, WLRN, plays a lot of news during traditional commuting hours, but has a lot of entertainment other times. The one in Jacksonville, FL, WJCT, plays Car Talk twice each weekend, once on Saturday and once on Sunday, which most other NPR stations don’t do. Where I live now, in Stuart, FL, a small drinking town with a fishing problem, there is a lot less local coverage than on WLRN and WJCT, probably because there is less to cover locally. There is also a lot of classical music during the day instead of national NPR shows. It has a small audience, so it doesn’t get enough money to pay for a lot of the shows carried by WLRN and WJCT.

Since local NPR stations have so much local control over their schedules and which shows they choose to (or can afford to) carry, you can’t make broad statements about all NPR stations. Each one is different. Some NPR stations play Car talk at 10 AM every Saturday and Sunday, while others play it every Saturday at 3 PM.

My new NPR station doesn’t seem to do pledge drives like others either. Instead of droning on and on about their need for money, they just make short announcements and get on with the news. It’s a pretty smart way to do pledge drives since it doesn’t encourage me to change the station.

I ran across this

and couldn’t let it pass.