Press for “Internet TV Show”

The concept of a nonprofit, publicly funded, technology-integrated new media ecosystem is attracting interest in policy circles as a way to alter the power dynamics of today’s information wars.

why does it matter: Renewing the structure and role of public media can be part of the solution to support local media, decentralize the distribution of good news, and limit big tech platforms’ amplification of harmful or false information.

recovery: Congress in 1967 allowed federal operating money for broadcasting stations through a new agency, the Public Broadcasting Corporation, and what is now PBS launched national medium news programs and successful children’s shows such as “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street.” NPR was born in 1971.

  • Despite tensions over political interference with national programming and funding, hundreds of mainly local community broadcasters received direct grants to choose which national programs to support.

News leadership: A new policy paper from the German Marshall Fund proposes a complete revamp of the CPB to fund not only broadcast stations, but also a wide range of digital platforms and potential content producers including freelance journalists, local governments, non-profit organizations and educational institutions.

  • The idea is to increase the diversity of local civic information, relying on well-established institutions such as libraries and colleges that communities trust.
  • Beyond content, the plan calls for open protocol standards and APIs to allow consumers to mix and match the content they want from a variety of sources, rather than being at the mercy of Facebook, Twitter or YouTube’s algorithms.
  • Data will be another important component. In order to operate, entities in the ecosystem must abide by basic data ethics and rules regarding how personal information is used.

said Eileen Goodman, co-author on, a professor at Rutgers Law School, and founder and director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law.

  • “Nobody thought the most efficient way to do things was to have gazillion broadcasting stations, but it was about decentralizing power. What would that look like on the Internet?”

Reality check: Allowing people to “set” their preferred content options can exacerbate filter bubbles.

  • However, the authors say that the involvement of trusted local institutions in creating and amplifying civic information — from public health updates to local election news — can improve people’s overall diet and disseminate it to the media “so it’s not just a battle between government and the platform,” Goodman said.

The Big Picture: On a larger scale, new models of non-profit media are gaining momentum.

  • The Local Press Sustainability Act takes a different approach than the government grant model. The bill would, for example, give a tax credit to people who donate to nonprofit newsrooms, or to small businesses that buy ads at a nonprofit outlet.

what are they saying: “There needs to be a much larger role for non-profit media, with public media as a subset of that, than there has been in the past,” said Steve Waldman, president of Report for America.

  • While today’s public media mostly leans toward broadcasting, which requires licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, a modern release can use a variety of funding sources and digital tools that don’t rely on the same solid infrastructure.
  • “Right now, a disproportionate amount of CPB money goes to television,” Waldman said. “From a local news standpoint, we may need to tone that down and allocate money to wherever it can promote local programming.”

In an article published in 2020, Waldman also called for “thousands of small SPANs,” using broadcast technologies to broadcast public meetings the way C-SPAN uses congressional hearings.

be clever: The controversy over disinformation and disinformation focuses primarily on who decides whether content is good or bad – a battle that cannot be won.

  • Revamping core infrastructure that amplifies content quality — relying on trusted local organizations and independent content producers — can give citizens a new source of news that doesn’t rely solely on platform algorithms or polarized commercial outlets.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that Steve Waldman is the president and not the CEO of Report for America.