【當季特輯:公廣大未來─經驗&觀摩】

【MASTER MONOGRAPH】
Localism
─The American Exception

David Brugger

Continued Growth

Public media in America continues its growth in audiences with its television audiences reaching 110 million viewers per month, its 11 million online users engaging with PBS content each month. PBS’ content has been rated #1 as the most trusted among nationally known institutions for 14 years in a row. PBS KIDS is the #1 media brand for children’s programming outscoring cable and commercial broadcast TV networks. Growth also continues in web page views and other online services.

At the same time public radio audiences grew28 percent in one year to now stand at 37.4 million listeners per week. National radio (NPR) content accounts for 30 million. NPR remains the leading publisher of podcasts with 4 million listeners per week. Its journalism attracts 9.7 million page views just for fact-checking, and is enhanced by its 17 international bureaus and social media content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and live streaming, podcasts and a station’s multiple digital channels.

How did this happen at a time when so many more media choices are now competing with the seventy-year-old educational broadcasters in the USA?

The Essence Is Local Community Control

Public media in America grows in importance because it is a local service in 368 TV communities covering more than 98% of all Americans, along with 1,041 public radio stations.

In America public media was established in local communities by intent and by regulation, licensed to local organizations responsible to the citizens of those communities. Those seeking the license had to provide evidence that those in charge were broadly representative of the educational, cultural and civic groups in the community. These licenses are held in trust for specified periods of time.

Media in the USA was meant by the Federal Communications Commission to obligate the station trustees, as a condition of the license, to assure service of the “public’s interests, convenience and necessities”. Receipt of a station license is a privilege and has to be renewed with proof of local service as determined in conjunction with the local community. A requirement to receive federal funds is that stations have a Community Advisory Board with specific guidelines for the participation of those advisors.

The National Guarantee

The historical context for public media was rooted in education, with spectrum reserved by the government for noncommercial educational (NCE) purposes. This intention grew into a determination by local communities to remain in control of station resources. The result of this local resolve can be seen in the federal establishment of station construction funding from the federal government in 1962, such funding only being available to local communities. In 1967 when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was established by the US Congress to furnish federal operating funds, it was “prohibited from exercising any direction, supervision or control over public stations or the content or distribution of programs or services.” CPB is a shield from political influence in the distribution of the federal dollars, most in the form of community service grants.

When the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was established by the stations in 1969,they specifically prohibited PBS from producing programs, a function retained by the stations and those station or independent producers with whom they contracted. In effect, PBS is the member stations’ service organization for interconnection and stations continued to produce programs for national distribution. They also have additional organizations, such as American Public Media, that operate as co-operatives of stations for specialized programming not offered through PBS.

National Public Radio (NPR) is a producer of programs because that is what the establishing stations needed to complement their local programs, which average forty percent of their content. Through NPR and other producers like American Public Radio and the Program Exchange, local public radio stations combine resources to produce quality programs they could not produce on an individual station basis.

Editorial Freedom and Responsibility

Thus the history of public media is replete with language, discussions, laws, regulations and organizational bylaws stressing the local station’s responsibility for, and freedom from interference in, operations and choice of programming or schedules. This freedom is inbred and passed on within local communities who view themselves as the responsible persons for the good of their local stations.

It is very common for communities with the local available resources to have multiple stations with varied service purposes.

Out of this public media DNA flow many of the events that reinforced localism and the diversity of programming on each station. From time to time in US public broadcasting’s history individual politicians attempted to exert undue influence over the decisions of the public media professionals locally or nationally. One effort to counter that interference has been The Editorial Integrity Project. This resulted in public media station managers agreeing that one of their core functions must be “to maintain editorial control of all content, be protective of their First Amendment rights of free speech, be responsible to exercise independent journalistic and editorial judgments, and to assure their content is free of political influence or commercial consideration.” Some went so far as to insert this specific language in their local governing regulations.

Adapting All Media To Public Use

With additions of new technology that allow multiple ways for stations to serve people who want to access programs in with their choice of instrument, American public media has adapted to meet the desires of its many audiences. Stations deliver programs or services with broadcast, with online digital services and applications that allow choice for the individual as well as any audience size for any community service purpose.

For example, a local station may deliver at the same time, certified training for local employment needs on one channel, children’s programming on another channel, adult programming on another, musical performance on another, news and information on another, with some public TV stations providing 18 channels of services via over-the-air (4 channels), cable, Internet, narrowcast, or using mobile applications. At the same time, public media has archives of programs that are always accessible for streaming or personal archiving to allow maximum individual choice.

Stations are also establishing “public commons”, where communities can come together to discuss issues of common concern. If the concern is more broadly felt, the discussion can be interconnected beyond the local area and to the region, state or nation if desired.

The availability of all of these additional channels of service have not detracted from one another but have been additive to the time spent using public media, additive to the financial resources available and growing the number of viewers, listeners, and users. The various statistics are too many to reiterate in this article.

Finances

Local communities in America recognize the value of public media in maintaining a civil society and allowing the free flow of information. Funding for public media is primarily a local function with most of the financial resources coming from the local population as individuals or businesses, or from foundations and public service organizations, all seeking to enhance the quality of life in their communities. That diversity of funding assures that local stations are responsive to the local populations without allowing a few local large donors to have excessive influence on the selection of stations’ services.

Sources of revenue also reflect this variety of services. The federal government, one of eleven categories of sources, provides about fifteen percent of the general funding, primarily granted to local stations for community service but assuring that even the smallest community can receive adequate funds to provide basic services. Other tax-based sources provide twenty percent of the funds combined with sixty-five percent from non-taxed based sources. The largest single source (average 31%) is individuals voluntarily donating funds, an indication of the general commitment of local citizens to support their local stations, and by extension the national programming that provides a sense of community among all Americans. Some stations in large communities have more than 90% coming from the local community.

Other sources include, businesses, state governments, colleges and universities, grants and contracts, and entrepreneurial activities (earned revenue). All revenues amount to over $3.047 Billion (2015).

The above revenues do not include the values placed on in-kind services from licensee institutions like states and universities, nor do they include the value of community volunteers who can be professionals offering a wide range of management, technical and computing services, fundraising, public relations, program talent, equipment to facilitate stations’ services, or collaborations with other organizations having similar goals. Stations who today are being most successful are listening to and engaging with their communities in ways that make local citizens view their station’s public service role in their community in very new ways. These thousands of volunteers result in station performance that ingrains the community into the very fiber of the station’s services and reflects the community back to itself with pride and a deeper understanding of their actions

Back To The Future: Universal Access and The Growth of Over-the-Air Signals

A goal of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is to assure that every American can view, listen to or otherwise have access to public broadcasting.

More than 20.7 million U.S. households representing 53.8 million consumers receive television exclusively through over-the-air broadcast signals. More than half of the broadcast-only homes in the U.S. also have no access to broadband or narrowband Internet. The number of households stopping their cable service (cord cutters) is growing.

Digital OTA broadcasting utilizes a strong, compressed digital signal that is unaffected by anything other than distance and signal strength. The picture comes in stunningly clear. While cable long held an advantage over quality, that changed with the invention of DTV and now high definition digital television.

Many companies, now recognizing the value in over-the-air television and in people’s desire to not have to pay for television, are utilizing the benefits of digital television signals. Increasingly, this is leading situations where viewers can get sometimes more than 50 channels from over-the-air digital broadcasting, often achieving better value than with cable television.

About 47 of the top 50 shows are available over-the-air. In metropolitan New York City, at least 58 digital OTA channels are available, including the digital feeds of the major broadcast networks, three public broadcast channels, Spanish-language broadcasters and others.

Public radio and television stations play an important role in small towns throughout the country. Millions of Americans rely on public broadcasting as a critical lifeline, providing lifesaving emergency news and information to their small communities. Today, more than 95 percent of the U.S. population is able to access public broadcasting’s over-the-air signals.

National Public Radio (NPR) creates and distributes news, information and music programming to a network of 959 public radio stations throughout the U.S. About 93 percent of the U.S. population can hear at least one station that carries NPR programming.

PBS offers educational programming for a wide range of ages, interests and genres. PBS is available to all children across America, providing content to young children who are not able to attend preschool. Approximately 1,770,000 students are homeschooled in the United States — 3.4% of the school-age population. PBS Learning Media has a wealth of resources for those parents whom homeschool.

Children living in rural areas are able to receive programs that improve their critical skills. PBS children’s programming teaches children valuable life skills, as well as improves school performance. Research has shown that children of preschool age who watch PBS’s “Sesame Street” spend more time reading for fun in high school, which results in higher grades in key subjects such as English, math and science. Additionally, other PBS programs, such as “SUPER WHY,” have been shown to increase children’s literacy skills by 46 percent. The numbers of kids who watch PBS programming over-the-air represent about 40 percent of PBS’ audience.

Public television and radio is such a vital resource in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped rural public television stations transition to digital broadcasting. The Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program provided $4.75 million in grants to noncommercial educational broadcast television stations serving rural areas across 15 states. It is one of several programs designed to help rural communities expand and modernize their technology so public television stations can provide viewers important emergency information, which they increasingly do with US Homeland Security.

In addition to broadcasting on primary channels throughout the U.S., public television provides a variety of local and educational programs on 577 multicast digital television (DTV) channels.

Summary

The American public recognizes a high value service when they see and hear one. Local communities support public stations because the stations belong to them, involve them, give back to them. Their small investment in public media provides a tremendous return with program services for many aspects of their lives. And they have a 60+-year track record to reassure them.

【國際名家專論】
美國公視七十年經驗談
資深公共媒體人David Brugger專文摘要導讀

文│孫青

David Brugger是誰?

從1968年擔任KDPS-TV-FM基層兒童節目製作人開始,到1970年擔任Iowa Public Broadcasting Network行政部主管、電台台長、總經理,1981到1987年是CPB(Corporation for Public Broadcasting)資深副總裁,1998年擔任APTS(Association of Public Television Stations)總裁,David Brugger可謂一位百分之百的公共媒體人,其所有職涯都與公共媒體相關。

他目前是Brugger Consulting, Brugger Global Media公司負責人,常到各地提供諮詢。在台灣公共電視備極艱辛的立法建台之際,以及公廣集團成立之初,David Brugger都曾指出建議,並提供各種規章制度的參考版本,也曾來台為世界公共電視年會(INPUT)主持過多元文化與媒體多樣性高峰會議。

為地方台爭取聯邦經費

David Brugger在CPB時負責的是電訊及廣播服務相關業務,推動各種草根活動,促使公共媒體廣播及電視節目能普及城鄉與不同族群社區。1998到2001年間,APTS在他領導下,致力於遊說對公共媒體不十分友善的美國國會,爭取不受商業或政治條件牽制的聯邦預算補助,讓地方台獲得較充裕的經費。David Brugger離職時,地方台的聯邦經費平均提升了百分之十。

退休後,David Brugger曾以顧問身分參與兒童節目《芝麻街》建立新的節目形式與產品,協助各處有需求的地方台爭取美國商務部的公共電訊補助款,擔任聯邦傳播委員會(FCC)顧問。

近期David Brugger的諮詢重點在於地方公共電視台的整合、公民參與、數位媒體政策、組織與管理、社區與政府關係;國際客戶則著重於開發中國家新的公視體系建立與倡導言論自由議題。

David Brugger曾獲The Ralph Lowell Award,這是美國公共電視的最高榮譽。

公視季刊專文主旨

在這篇為《開鏡》特撰的文章中,David Brugger說明為什麼七十歲的美國公共媒體依然蓬勃且贏得民眾尊敬?

據統計,美國公共電視網(Public Broadcasting Service,PBS,由354個加盟公共電視台組成)每月觀眾達一億一千一百萬人;PBS線上節目使用者達一千一百萬人;PBS節目連續十四年被全美有公信力的機構評比為具有最可被信任的內容;PBS KIDS是兒童節目的第一品牌,遠勝有線電視及其它商業頻道。同時,public radio的聽眾,一年之內提高百分之二十八。

美國公共媒體得以維持其價值,除了及早體認新媒體的必要性之外,還可歸納出兩點原因:

一、地方台自覺與自主的本質

美國公共媒體是個網狀結構,由地方台以不同的執照(大學、社區、州政府、市政府等)方式組成,再向中央交換節目及申請相對補助款,和其它國家中央管理的做法截然不同。

地方台規模有極大也有極小,固然也曾有寡頭壟斷的疑慮,基本上都是奠基於社團良善意圖及周延的法規設計。

全美368個地方公共電視台,涵蓋百分之九十八的美國人口,加上1041個公共廣播台的運作,確實遂行公共利益、兼顧多元價值、方便性及必要性。這也是各台獲聯邦補助的主要條件之一。

因此,地方台更必須堅守新聞自主、言論自由及資訊充分流通,並視其為當然的社會責任。

二、國家制度的設計減少中央控制風險

1967年CPB由美國國會成立,以便對地方台撥付聯邦補助款,但是明文禁止CPB有任何指示、監管及控制。

1969年各地方台合組PBS,PBS是個連結各台、派送全國型節目的組織,節目製作權掌握在地方台手中。此外還有American Public Media,這組織協助各個地方台在製作非PBS的聯播節目時,可以進行合作。

不過,1971年成立的NPR(National Public Radio)定位和PBS不同,保有製作節目功能,以補足地方廣播電台只能製作約百分之四十地方節目的不足能量。

地方電視台的聯邦預算占總預算百分之十五,以社區服務為標的,即使最小規模的電視台也不會被忽略。其他稅務預算資源和非稅務預算資源合起來占百分之六十五。其中很重要的單項,是社區民眾志願捐款,平均占百分之三十一,有些甚至可占到九成。

企業贊助、州政府撥款、大學補貼以外、接合作案也是美國地方台收入來源。此外,大量志工參與也意義深遠。

(原刊登於《開鏡》Vol.2,2017/10出版 )

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