Public Radio, TV Strengthen Communities

National Public Radio is only a small part of federal funding for public broadcasting. This year it will receive about $3 million in direct programming support through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It’s true that stations may use some or all of their federal money to pay for NPR programs, but what’s really at stake here is our ability to serve our local communities.
The real issue is that your local public broadcasting stations will be defunded.
At a time when WFCR/WNNZ is planning a major expansion into downtown Springfield — something the business community has embraced as another step toward downtown redevelopment (part of the UMass-Springfield Partnership reported in this publication) — and when WGBY has just successfully added Connecting Point, a new local program, to its lineup of many successful programs and community efforts over the years, this would be the worst possible time to eliminate funding that is vital to your local stations.
For many years, WFCR/WNNZ and WGBY have broadcast the national programs Marketplace and The Nightly Business Report, respectively, hardly a “haven for left-wing radical ideologues spewing out anti-business rhetoric,” as BusinessWest stated in its recent editorial. In fact, WGBY’s Connecting Point has regular segments dedicated to local economic development in the Knowledge Corridor, and a good deal of WFCR/WNNZ’s local reporting is about the area’s business community.
Public radio and television stations are important sources of information in our communities. This is all the more significant given the contraction in journalism. According to the 2010 Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, 72% of Americans feel that “most news sources are biased in their coverage.” But they don’t feel that way about public broadcasting — among the most trusted news sources anywhere. In fact, according to an annual Roper poll, PBS has been named as the most trusted institution in America for six consecutive years.
Other surveys by GfK MRI (a leading producer of media and consumer research in the U.S.) found that most NPR listeners consistently identify themselves as “middle of the road” or “conservative.” Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.
And right here in Western Mass., it is clear that businesses and individuals care about public broadcasting. Underwriting dollars and listener support are by far the largest parts of our annual operating budgets. But if federal funding were eliminated, we would have to make up the remaining 10% to 15% locally or reduce our local services by that amount.
Commercial broadcasting in America receives billions of dollars each year in public subsidies in the form of free use of the public airwaves, which belong to the American people. The federal government gives them licenses to make profits that dwarf what it spends on public broadcasting. It also appropriates millions of tax dollars to branches of the government and to states, which are spent on commercial advertising.
From Springfield and Longmeadow to Amherst and Greenfield, we rely on government to fund public schools and public libraries, and the need remains to preserve a spot on our airwaves for media that matters. WFCR/WNNZ and WGBY add value to the quality of life in our communities. And we do this as a free service for everyone every day.
We live in one of the greatest places in our country, and it benefits from having citizens who are informed, inspired, and educated with high-quality, intelligent, and meaningful public media. It plays a vital role in supporting the foundation of our democracy and civil discourse in communities as diverse and different as Holyoke and Huntington. Indeed, our content is a springboard for critical thinking, inspires entrepreneurial endeavors, and even attracts new residents and businesses to invest their lives and livelihood in our region.
WGBY and WFCR/WNNZ strengthen communities and provide positive economic and cultural impact that we need — especially now.

Martin Miller is CEO and general manager of WFCR 88.5FM and WNNZ 91.7FM; Russell Peotter is general manager of WGBY 57.

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