Reason TV on the Future of Public Broadcasting

Yesterday’s White House Budget Blueprint for fiscal year 2018 zeros out funding for, among other agencies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Critics of that cut quickly suggested that reducing federal funding to non-commercial radio and television stations would be a mistake, with Public Broadcasting Service president and CEO Paula Kerger enumerating benefits such as “public safety communications and civil discourse.”

In what now seems like a prescient programming decision, Reason TV released a video exactly one month ago that makes a very interesting argument about how public broadcasting works and what it could become. In the 50 years since Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, the delivery of video and audio content has changed dramatically, but non-commercial outlets have not kept pace. Commercial news and entertainment networks have created new platforms and strategies for reaching audiences that their public analogues should learn from. Shows that are currently broadcast via a national network of radio and TV stations could shift to a podcast and Netflix-style subscription service, delivering the same content at a lower cost.  

Changes in taxpayer funding for public broadcasting, however, are only a small part of what could become a big change in government policy toward the digital media landscape in the next few years. Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, for one, has big plans. For more on the future of telecom and technoloy policy, see CEI’s recommendations for the Trump administration and Congress.