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Stephen Gottlieb: Pledge Drive And Public Radio

I wrote this commentary assuming it would be extra incentive to contribute. Instead it is a time for celebration and appreciation. A one-day fund drive – WOW. So let me say a bit about some of the things that your contributions accomplished.

We’ve helped protect WAMC from efforts of Blowhards in Washington to cut the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That would eliminate several hundred thousand dollars for WAMC, like other public radio stations, and which help pay for the subscription costs for the national public radio programming we buy. In other words, the intended hit is against both the local stations and the public radio networks.

The public radio system combines the benefits of local stations and national networks. Local stations provide excellent coverage of regional news, events and opinion. Network economies of scale make possible other excellent programming we have become accustomed to. Efficiencies of scale make possible the specialists in multiple fields, and staffs of reporters throughout the country and the world ready at a moment’s notice to provide information about developments in far flung places. We do both, creating excellent programming at WAMC and buying programs like All Things Considered and Morning Edition, among others, from national networks.

The architecture of the public radio system has placed support of the national networks on the patronage of the local stations. That way no network or program gets automatic support. The only thing that has been relatively automatic has been support through the local stations, and our job, along with other public radio stations has been to pick the best collectively. When our budget is attacked, that has national implications.

So each station does its part. We support Alan, Joe, Ian, Ray, Brian, David, Jim, Wanda, Sarah and all of the people we love here in Albany and the New York-New England region we serve and broadcast from. And we support the best from all the national networks to which our WAMC/Northeast Public Radio has been subscribing.

There was a time, in the 1920s, when we could have had a truly independent public non-profit system, but Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, distributed broadcast licenses in such a way that it became impossible. When what was then called educational broadcasting was finally allowed a foothold in the broadcasting spectrum alongside the commercial stations, it was as a struggling step-child. But Republicans in Washington have opposed and tried to unravel it ever since.

So I hope our representatives in Washington get the message that their constituents support public broadcasting. But if Washington doesn’t get it, there will be a silver lining as long as we and other public radio listeners support the local stations and through them the national public radio system. Then it won’t tempt anyone in the system to worry about what the Administration might do to the networks or the stations. Public radio will depend on you, the listeners, as we should, not on people with their so-called alternative facts and rampant self-interest and selfishness.

We celebrate our role and our leadership in protecting both WAMC and the public radio system of which it is a part. United we stand for truth, justice and honest news.

Steve Gottlieb is Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School and author of Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and the Breakdown of American Politics. He has served on the Board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and in the US Peace Corps in Iran. Steve maintains a blog: constitutionalismanddemocracy.wordpress.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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