Monday, February 25, 2008

Needed: Pub broadcasting to separate from universities

When the Santa Fe Community College wanted to sell its public radio station license, the community rose up in arms. Out of that came the not-for-profit foundation that penned a management agreement with the college to operate KSFR radio independent of the rest of the college. The college retained the license.

We didn’t know it at the time, but this method of saving the radio station also gave it a great strength – its total independence.

More public broadcasting stations should examine whether they are truly independent under their current organization as part of a university or college. When crunch time comes, they may be under pressure from whatever administration is in charge of the school at the time.

Imagine the public broadcaster having to report, objectively, on a savory matter bubbling up inside the academic institution. Inevitably, there would be the pressure to succumb to playing the school’s tune about the matter.

There’s always the possibility the local college might try to strong-arm KSFR if push came to shove. But they wouldn’t get very far. We don’t work for them.

Now, public television in New Hampshire is splitting off from the University of New Hampshire to be an independent nonprofit. They don’t cover the point of journalistic independence in their statement about the move. But that’s what they’ll have. And that’s a mighty beneficial thing.

More public broadcasters should take this approach.

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