For Immediate Release
Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35
New Study Finds Investment in Public Media Around the World Leads to Better News
NEW YORK - Even as public media are under attack on Capitol Hill, a new report shows how expanding, not cutting, federal funding can promote quality, independent journalism. The study, Public Media and Political Independence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism from Around the World, analyzes public media systems in 14 democratic countries, from Australia to Finland and France to Japan.
The authors, Rodney Benson and Matthew Powers of New York University, examine how these countries fund public media and ensure its autonomy, protecting it from partisan political meddling. In every single country studied, public media provide more and higher quality public affairs coverage, a wider range of viewpoints and more critique of government than their commercial counterparts. The report was supported by a grant from the Foundation to Promote Open Society.
“We found that the best public media — the most independent and critical of government —were also the best funded,” Benson said. “Safeguarded from the kind of partisan interference that has become all too common in this country, public media in England, Germany and other leading democracies are a key reason why their citizens are much more knowledgeable about government and international affairs than are U.S. citizens. Our research shows that quality public media strength the quality of democracy. Amount of funding isn’t everything. But it does make a difference.”
In the United States, public media is consistently rated among the most trusted media sources, yet it is among the lowest funded in the world. Per capita public funding of PBS and NPR is less than $2, compared to $30 to $130 per capita invested by countries like Japan, Sweden and Norway.
Despite the widespread evidence in the report of public media’s positive impact, efforts to slash funding for public media in the U.S. are gaining strength. The House is expected to vote on Thursday on a budget bill that would eliminate all federal funding for public media, despite calls by millions of Americans to save support for local stations and programs like Frontline and Sesame Street.
“Discussions about zeroing out the funding to public media at this moment in history are incredibly short-sighted,” said Josh Stearns, associate program director of Free Press. “At a time when commercial media in America are abandoning investigative journalism, shutting down foreign bureaus and laying off reporters in droves, we need independent public media more than ever. We need our leaders in Washington to stop playing politics and threatening NPR, PBS and hundreds of stations serving local communities. Instead, we should start building a public media system that is the envy of the rest of the world.”
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