Conflicting Communication Interests in America: The Case of National Public Radio

Conflicting Communication Interests in America: The Case of National Public Radio

Conflicting Communication Interests in America: The Case of National Public Radio

Conflicting Communication Interests in America: The Case of National Public Radio

Synopsis

McCourt sees public broadcasting as increasingly under siege as the marketplace undermines public goods and services and as politics and culture are beset by fragmentation. In this first full-length scholarly examination of National Public Radio, he contrasts NPR's mission and its practices.

Excerpt

The total service should be trustworthy, enhance intellectual development, expand knowledge, deepen aural esthetic enjoyment, increase the pleasure of living in a pluralistic society and result in a service to listeners which makes them more responsive, informed human beings and intelligent responsible citizens of their communities and the world.

—William Siemering, ‘‘National Public Radio Purposes,’’ p. 2

Characterizing a broadcasting system as ‘‘public’’ implies public ownership and control, yet the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting Service, and National Public Radio are private nonprofit organizations. Many CPB-funded radio stations also are licensed to private groups and institutions. the fact that private nonprofit organizations control substantial parts of the system represents a very important contradiction. a public medium should be collectively owned and freely accessible, and it should provide services to all members of the public. Private individuals and groups—even if they measure success in terms of cultural, rather than economic, capital—simply cannot own a ‘‘public’’ medium. One way in which public broadcasting has attempted to defuse the issue of private ownership (and differentiate itself from its commercial counterparts) is through the use of volunteers at the local level. in this regard, public broadcasting invokes the traditions of voluntarism, self-sufficiency, and individualism in American political and cultural life that Alexis de Tocqueville found in the early 19th century.

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