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'All Things Considered,' public media worth it

By Talee Mabe
On October 25, 2012

  • John Miersen, Liberal Arts emphasis, and Ethan Nelson, vocal music emphasis, play off each other as Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein. Photo By Dallas Wilcox

More fearsome than goblins and Alfred Hitchcock for Iowa Public Radio was the idea that the Fall Membership Drive wouldn't yield the numbers and funding that they desired.

They met their goal of recruiting 3500 sustaining members ahead of their deadline. However, I could not help but hear their anxiety about the budget. Such concerns have revealed some lawmakers poised to throttle public broadcasting.

With that in mind, I've had cause to reflect on some of my favorite programming and its essentiality. I would likely not die without National Public Radio, nor would the children on my street suffer a similar fate if deprived of Big Bird. However, Iowa Public Radio and Iowa Public Television are of such value to civil society and an informed public that I must fight for them.

Consumers are subjecting their public programming, whether on the radio or on the television, to further scrutiny. Appraisal of programming quality is a valid habit among consumers and is often done for the greater good.

Yet the threat of cuts to such substantive programming should be scary to any concerned citizen. While America is in the red, cuts should not be all encompassing, depriving citizens of a resource, a service and an engine for American learning.

Public radio accompanies my commute to and from school. It is often my companion for long journeys as well. During theses times, I've become informed and enlightened by the discussions that I've heard. The coverage of local, national and international news maintains balance. Coverage of events at each level is not bloated; it is thorough, thought-provoking and adept.

Many successful classroom discussions have been spawned by topics discussed on one of Iowa Public Radio's programs. Assignments have been more well-informed by information heard on NPR or read on its webpages. Hearing a salient report on my commute to or from school may leave me with inspiration for personal writing. Based upon what I've seen and heard, public broadcasters and public radio figures take pride in this trait. They recognize and appreciate their roles as informers, educators and storytellers in the communities in which they live and broadcast.

The protectiveness Americans feel toward public radio and television should not be underestimated. Users of social media reacted in droves to comments made by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney regarding the fate of public media under a Romney administration. Denizens of Facebook and Tumblr took up the cause of Big Bird and immortalized the former governor's comments. I understand the depth of the current debt; however, to strip public radio and public broadcasting of crucial federal support is to face the idea of polluting its programming with invasive advertisement and corporate interests.

What can be done? Let your local and state representatives know: Don't let this election seal the fate of public broadcasting. While voting does not guarantee the life of this media, examination of the candidates' positions reveals its importance.

Do not let this fiscal issue, which enlivens discourse and espouses learning, fall in the cracks of a divisive election. Support the education of Americans, support public media and support Big Bird.

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