Broadcasting trust


Poised to reinvent themselves, public-television leaders gathered last Thursday and Friday at a conference organized by the University’s Cultural Policy Center and held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. “The new world of media waits for no one,” Carroll Joynes, the center’s executive director, said in his opening remarks to a 200-member audience. Pat Mitchell, president of PBS, concurred: “Technology is rewriting and reinventing the way we do everything.” Public television, she said, must ensure its place in the new-media landscape.

That place should be a “true alternative,” Ken Auletta, media critic for the New Yorker magazine, emphasized in his presentation, challenging PBS to keep in mind its biggest asset: trust. Many panelists raised concerns about political bias, the representation of minority voices, and growing commercialization.

In nearly all of the conference discussions, money emerged as a central problem. Public broadcasting, multiple speakers noted, is grossly underfunded. As one remedy, Mitchell announced the Enhanced Funding Initiative, an expert panel formed to find new ways to put PBS on secure financial footing.

The most promising way to achieve that goal, suggested Jerold M. Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, is to form a coalition with universities, public-interest groups, and art institutions. Joining up with a museum, it seems, may be the way to keep public television out of one.

By Sibylle Salewski

Photos: Pat Mitchell, PBS president (top); the conference was held at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (bottom).

Photos by Lloyd DeGrane.

December 8, 2004