Ira Glass: Key To NPR Success Is Mix Of Private, Public Funding
May 13, 2015 at 1:11 PM (PT)
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO superstar and "This AMERICAN Life" host IRA GLASS has blogged that public radio need not sell out to thrive, according to a report in the MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO NEWS.
Speaking to media buyers in NEW YORK recently, GLASS caused some controversy when he said public radio ought to embrace capitalism, encouraging it to move away from the listener-supported model which has sustained it.
His declaration set off sparks in the public radio community where the relatively few commercial successes overshadow the more low-key, grassroots and local broadcast organizations.
GLASS posted a blog defending his position, writing on the industry website CURRENT that he didn’t mean public radio should abandon its goals in pursuit of corporate funding.
"In the last few years at 'This American Life,' revenue we’ve made this way — especially from underwriting on our podcast — has meant that for the first time, we’re in an unusual situation for public broadcasters or journalists of any kind: We’ve had extra money to devote to special projects.
"We’ve used it as idealistically as we know how. We expanded staff to do more in-depth investigations and reporting. We started the podcast "Serial." We took on projects like one documenting life in a CHICAGO high school where 29 current and recent students had been shot in one year.
"This required sending three reporters into the school over the course of five months — something that would be a huge, expensive project for any newsroom in the country. We could afford to do that only because of the money that underwriting — aka capitalism — brought us.
"Obviously public broadcasters could go too far. Programmers could sell out. They could chase ratings and destroy everything that makes public radio special. It feels almost insulting to have to say that I’m against that, but apparently — given comments I’ve been reading on TWITTER — that’s how some people have interpreted what I said about capitalism.
"They think I’m saying we should open the floodgates and turn public radio into a moronic money-grabbing wasteland of commercial shillery.
"To be clear: I’m against that."
GLASS reiterated that public radio should still pursue programming that does not appeal to the largest audience, but should still seek more corporate money.
“I don’t think we’re heading into some corny apocalypse version of public media where our values will fly out the door,” he insisted.