Magazine article Reason

Independent Airwaves

Magazine article Reason

Independent Airwaves

Article excerpt

Few people expect critiques of public broadcasting to come from the left, and certainly not from a leftist who reveres the idea of noncommercial radio and television. But Jerold Starr, author of Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting (Beacon, 2000) and founder of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting (, wants to replace the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with an independent body. That way, he argues, controversial and uncommercial material can be aired without political interference. How would the new system be financed? That's a matter of debate within Starr's group, with some favoring a semi-public system funded by a levy on commercial broadcasters and others backing a completely independent trust.

Starr, 59, divides his time between Washington, D.C.; Morgantown, West Virginia;. and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Associate Editor Jesse Walker reached him by phone late last year.

Q: What's the purpose of your group?

A: It operates on two levels. We want to restructure public broadcasting as an independent public trust, so it has the financial security required for editorial integrity--we would in effect take the government and the corporations out of direct funding of programming. The trust would provide roughly $1 billion a year in program funds, which would be five times what it currently spends.

The second level is democratizing local stations, so they are more responsive to and reflective of the community.

Q: Where would the money come from? …

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