Our “Flawed” Democracy Can Be Improved through Public Media.

Pillar of Democracy

A recent study reveals that nations with robust public media funding have more stable democracies. The co-authors give reasons as to why funding American public media is a wise investment for both democracy and the future of journalism.

In recent years, thousands of newspapers around the country have shut down or scaled back, leaving many towns without – or with much reduced – local news outlets. A news sector in crisis is indicated by the demise of local journalism, the emergence of “news deserts,” the dissemination of false and misleading information, and other factors.

Media expert Political Economy and Co-Director of the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center at the Annenberg School for Communication advocates for a promising alternative  Victor Pickard, Ph.D., the C. Edwin Baker Professor of Media Policy: expanded government investment in a nonprofit organization and public media. Commercial news continues to experience structural and financial problems.

Public Centric public media

While other democracies have acknowledged the benefits of public media systems, the research “Funding Democracy: Democratic Health in 33 Countries and Public Media ” reveals that America is a significant anomaly. Even though America’s GDP is the highest in the world, slighter than half of one percent of its total budget goes toward subsidizing public media.

The survival of democracy is dependent on a politically active and well-informed public as newsrooms around the nation continue to close. As per,  Neff, a former MIC postdoctoral researcher, and Pickard, and current lecturer in journalism at the University of Leicester, discusses how to gauge the health of a democracy, how the United States compares to other nations, and how to improve our media infrastructure.

What aspects of a democracy need to be examined to assess its health?

The Economist’s Democracy Index evaluates the health of democracies in five key areas: electoral process (fairness and freedom of elections); functioning of government (policymaking by duly elected officials free from undue influence from corrupt officials);civil liberties (media freedom, freedom to associate, and support for human rights); political participation (citizen engagement with democratic processes); political culture (public support for democracy).

How public media may support the development of democracies.

A growing body of research suggests that strong public media systems have significant social benefits, incorporating well-informed political cultures, increased levels of support for democratic procedures, and increased positions of civic engagement, according to a survey of the relationship between strong public media systems and strong democracies.

What are some defenses of government funding of the media? How to respond to these critiques.

There is a widespread worry that government support for public media would lead to a perilous crisis where our news institutions will turn into mouthpieces for the government. State takeover is a genuine worry, but many democracies have found effective ways to establish robust protections to uphold the independence of public media. Furthermore, our data support the claim that a strong public media strategy is advantageous — possibly even necessary — for upholding a thriving democracy.

What suggestions are there for the infrastructure and funding of public media in the future?

There is arguably now an even stronger case to be made that public media needs to fill the gap to address the widening news gaps as the commercial newspaper industry continues to wither away because the audience is no longer supporting the level of media news— especially regional journalism — that democratically requires. Around the nation and the world, new deserts are growing. The time is now for public media to review its mission statement and consider how it should function in a democratic assembly and it’s rapidly evolving digital media landscape. As we build out this crucial infrastructure, the public media system should ideally be reorganized and made more democratic.

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