The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Liz Rose, Communications Director, 202-265-1490 x 32

Journalism Crisis Is Public Media's Opportunity

Free Press Testifies at FCC Workshop on Ways to Build a Public Media Trust Fund


Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron will
testify today before the Federal Communications Commission about new
strategies for supporting public media in the digital era.

"This is the moment to re-imagine our old public broadcasting system
and rebuild it as a new public media network committed to education, to
community service and, most importantly, to local newsgathering," Aaron
will tell the FCC on a panel Friday afternoon. "The reality is there is
no longer enough private capital -- in the form of advertising,
subscriptions or philanthropy -- to support the depth and breadth of
quality news reporting our communities need. Yet at the time when the
need for public media couldn't be bigger, we're spending far too

The United States now spends about $420 million per year in public
money for public media. That works out to just $1.43 per capita. By
comparison, Canada spends more than $27 per capita, and England spends
$87 per capita.

"Just imagine how the American public media system could
dramatically increase its reach and relevance with as little as $5 per
person," Aaron says. "While annual appropriations for public media are
still essential, we can't count on the politically charged process in
Congress to provide long-term fiscal viability and independence. What's
needed instead is a supplemental source of revenue: a trust fund seeded
with a substantial endowment that eventually could enable the public
media system to become nearly or completely self-sufficient."

In prepared testimony, Aaron details a series of proposals that
could build a public media trust using spectrum fees, a spectrum
auction, a tiny tax on advertising, changes to the way advertising is
treated in the tax code, or a small assessment on consumer electronic
devices. Over the next decade, each of these plans could put tens of
billions into a public media trust and sustain significantly higher
annual budgets to support local and investigative journalism, arts and
culture programming, and education.

Read the prepared remarks:

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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