Part II: Commission Findings and Recommended Strategies
Recommendation 2: Increase support for public service media aimed at meeting community information needs.
Like private media, public broadcasting in the United States has a mixed history of providing local news and information. On the one hand, a 2007 Roper opinion poll found that nearly half of all Americans trust the Public Broadcasting Service â€œa great deal,â€? higher than the numbers rating commercial television and newspapers.35 On the other hand, with some notable exceptions, public broadcasting in America has been widely criticized as being insufficiently local or diverse. Public stations do not have a strong record of spearheading local investigative journalism, and most public radio broadcasters have little or no local news reporting staff. Finally, again with some promising exceptions, local public stations have failed to embrace digital innovations as a way to better connect with their communities.36 The American commitment to First Amendment values has long bred an appropriate caution against reliance on government as a sponsor of news and information. But public broadcasters in the United States have demonstrated their capacity to deliver high-quality, fair, and credible news and information programming free of government interference.
Public broadcasting needs to move quickly toward a broader vision of public service media, one that is more local, more inclusive, and more interactive. Public broadcasting in the United States has added a context and fullness to news and information during the past 40 years. But it has fallen short of its promise. Breakthroughs in childrenâ€™s programming have not been mirrored in the information field. Simply put, our public media do not fully reflect the public nor engage with it sufficiently on the community level. It is important now for public policy in the digital age to play a more determined role in enhancing the performance of public broadcasting in local news.
The Report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy