Why and how to save public radio

To all of you who had been following and had participated in the WAMC fund drive, an immense thank you. The fund drive is an exhausting experience. It takes everything I’ve got: $1 million is a great deal of money.

Lots of things contribute to the station’s survival. For one, WAMC is very lucky to have The Berkshire Eagle as a partner. The paper’s publisher, Andrew Mick, has been very generous to the radio station. Kevin Moran, The Eagle’s managing editor, has regularly appeared on the radio in the mornings to update readers in seven states about what the Eagle reporters are working on. Our Berkshire Bureau office is located in the Eagle building and Clarence Fanto, the superb reporter, was once the news director at WAMC.

Our Berkshire County bureau chief, Lucas Willard, has been the recipient of a lot of goodwill and help from The Berkshire Eagle staff. Our generous donors have included many of the people who work at the various newspapers in our region, including The Eagle. We are lucky to have the interdependence with The Eagle that we do. Instead of the same old competitiveness that we see in too many political and journalistic situations, this relationship stands out as a marker that can be emulated by all those in an emerging media reconfiguration in this country. Personally, as I sit here and write my Saturday column, I am incredibly appreciative of the generosity of spirit that is offered by our Eagle friends.

It is no wonder that many, many people from Berkshire County have put something into the pot to keep the radio station going. WAMC heard from hundreds and thousands of donors, not only from the Berkshires but from Springfield and the Pioneer Valley who have spoken again and again about how they depend on the station.

We know that during the drive, a debate took place in which Mitt Romney was asked which cuts he would make to decrease the national debt. Instead of saying that he might eliminate purchasing a billion-dollar nuclear submarine or a presidential helicopter that even the president says that he doesn’t want, Romney made it quite clear that the very first thing he would eliminate is funding for PBS, the public television system. That means that the appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be zeroed out and that NPR would be affected as well. Should Mitt Romney become the president with a Republican House, Senate and Supreme Court, you had better believe that the outcome will cause considerable chaos for public radio. Many of the stations will simply go under without the federal support. It won’t be easy for WAMC but we’ll keep going, one way or the other.

All the money we get from the CPB (about $440,000 in total) goes right back to National Public Radio. In fact, we pay nearly $800,000 in various NPR fees. If they lose the many stations that can’t sustain themselves without CPB funding, NPR will have to either cut back or charge the remaining stations, including WAMC, even more.

If politicians get tax money to spend, they inevitably try to spend it on things that will help them succeed in their re-election bids. That is a fact of life. It is also a fact that if they don’t succeed in killing NPR and PBS by denying government money, they will inevitably look for another way to do it. After all, they have a ton of money to buy radio and television stations and put their vassals on them ad nauseam. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “Money talks, all others walk.”

If we want to keep public broadcasting, we’ll have to fight for it.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10/13/12

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