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FCC Workshop To Explore Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era

Continuing its series of workshops–which are more informal than hearings–on a variety of important topics, the FCC will hold one on the topic of “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era.” This workshop is part of the Commission’s project on the Future of Media and the Information Needs of Communities. This day-long workshop is happening next Friday, April 30, and will be streamed live online. You can also read a PDF announcement and agenda.

The frame of the workshop is the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which created public radio and television as we know it today in the US. This is the topic of the first presentation ” A 1967 Moment… A Vision for Public Media.” Of course, noncommercial and public service broadcast media existed in the US prior to 1967, from the very beginning of broadcast. Nevertheless, the Act marks a significant moment when the value of public service broadcasting was acknowledged and solidified.

Radio is represented throughout the workshop’s panels. I’m glad to see that there are representatives from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and Prometheus Radio Project, alongside representation from more mainstream public radio organizations like NPR. Unfortunately I see no representation for college radio, which we Radio Survivors certainly argue stands as a unique service distinct from community and public radio, even if many public stations are owned and operated by higher education institutions.

I think this oversight is notable because college radio continues to be the place where many of tomorrow’s public broadcasters get their start, while simultaneously providing valuable cultural and informational service to communities. At the same time college stations face unique challenges brought on by budget pressures at their home institutions and the desirability of their precious spectrum space that other would-be broadcasters covet. It would certainly be great to see the FCC invite someone who can speak on behalf of college broadcasters.

I will be tuning in to the webcast Friday and will certainly have some thoughts to report here.


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