Public Media Company: Keeping the ‘On Air’ Lights Brightly Aglow
If you’ve ever listened to public radio, you’ve heard the iconic jingling of telephones in the background as your favorite NPR host pleads for your support: “volunteers are standing by…”
Yet, if it wasn’t for the initiative and the foresight of Marc Hand and Susan Harmon, co-founders of Public Media Company (originally known as Public Radio Capital, and originally founded as a project of Station Resource Group, a public media incubator of sorts), dozens of listener-supported public radio and viewer-supported television stations would no longer exist.
To fully understand the story, you must go back to the 1990s, when a wave of deregulation in the radio industry gave way to massive consolidation. The tipping point came when Community Resource Educational Association, Inc. (CREA), a non-profit religious broadcaster, bid an astounding $13 million for the WDCU public radio station’s license owned by the University of the District of Columbia.
The offer sent shock waves through the local listener community, NPR and stations across the country. Since a majority of public stations are owned by institutional licensees (colleges and universities), if such bids persisted, the temptation of multi-million dollar offers for university-owned stations could lead to the disappearance of public radio stations in markets all over the country. And with them, outlets for diverse, local voices. READ MORE…