In February, NYU’s Rodney Benson & Matthew Powers published Public Media and Political Independence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism from Around the World (PDF). Above are public media per capita spending numbers from the study that compare 14 countries.
What you’re seeing is a high of $134 for
Sweden Norway and a low of $4 for the United States.
In the introduction to the report, the two write:
In report after report, America’s public and noncommercial media sector has been held up as a core component to the future of hard-hitting, accountability journalism. All of the major reports released in 2009 and 2010 agreed that there is a vital role for public and noncommercial media to play, and that the federal government must work to strengthen and expand funding for it.1 Together, these reports sparked inquiries at both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
However, too often the moderate proposals for federal funding and public media run into a wave of protest and knee-jerk reactions against any and all government action. In fact, government has always and will always influence how our media system functions, from the early newspaper postal subsidies to handing out broadcast licenses and subsidizing broadband deployment. The question is not if government should be involved, but how, and that is a question that demands an in-depth conversation, not a shouting match.
And while the recent NPR flair-up had not occurred as of the report’s release, political pressure is nothing new when it comes to America’s public media.
And as the recent efforts by politicians to punish NPR for its firing of Juan Williams suggest, public media in America possess little autonomy from direct political pressure. How can public media be adequately funded and adequately protected from partisan political meddling? These decisions do not need to be made in a vacuum. The lessons of other democratic nations, many of whose public media systems have been around long before American public broadcasting, are instructive.
Two good articles exploring the report come from Miller-McCune and Nieman Labs. Journo geeks can download the report from FreePress.