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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: Local Public Broadcasting Stations Should Not Lose Funding Because of Problems with NPR, MU Journalism Expert says

March 09, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Vivan Schiller, the president of National Public Radio (NPR), resigned on Wednesday, following the release of a video that records one of NPR’s fundraising executives criticizing the Republican party while also referring to Tea Party supporters as “seriously racist, racist people.” Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, said local public broadcasting stations should not be held as the scapegoats for what perceived problems there may be at the national level.

Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“Public broadcasting is in the midst of the most serious threat to continue federal funding in its history,” Cochran said. “NPR has become the lightning rod, going back to the Juan Williams issue.  I think some people hope that this resignation will take the negative attention away from public broadcasting and allow people to focus on its benefits and why public broadcasting should continue to receive federal funding.

“Public broadcasting is a collection of local stations that have importance in their local communities. To cut the funding would do tremendous damage to local stations that are providing local news and public affairs programming. Those local stations have a presence in their communities that can be very important, and that’s where the argument for continue funding should focus. Don’t make the local stations the scapegoats for whatever the perceived problems may be at the national level.”

Cochran recently published a white paper, “Rethinking Public Media,” on the future of public media and how it can be improved. The paper is part of a series on creating healthy, informed communities across the country sponsored by the Knight Commission. The commission is a project sponsored by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L.  Knight Foundation. Cochran’s paper can be found at www.knightcomm.org/rethinking-public-media.

Cochran works in the Missouri School of Journalism’s Washington, D.C. bureau. Previously, she served as president of the Radio Television Digital News Association, which earned a Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism during her 12-year tenure. Cochran has served in several executive roles in commercial and public media including vice president for news at National Public Radio.

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