Pushing People Up

Sep 1, 2017

In the alphabet soup of public broadcasting acronyms, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), often takes a back seat to more familiar organizations like NPR, PBS and even well established local stations. 

While CPB operates mainly in the background of the national public broadcasting ecosystem, it is part of the core of what makes public broadcasting a unique American institution. CPB is a nonprofit organization that was formed as part of The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 to facilitate the growth and development of public television and radio to provide instructional, educational, and cultural programming. 

While CPB operates mainly in the background of the national public broadcasting ecosystem, it is part of the core of what makes public broadcasting a unique American institution.

Each year CPB serves as the steward of funds appropriated by Congress to provide operational support to nearly 1,500 local public radio and television stations across the U.S. CPB administers grants, evaluates station effectiveness, negotiates music licensing agreements on behalf of stations and ensures accountability to Congress and the President.

In a recent update to stations around the country about a report issued by the House Appropriations Committee related to ongoing federal funding for public broadcasting, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison described the value of our collective work in a way I think is worth sharing with you. Here is an excerpt of Harrison’s communication:

“Public media has been called America’s storyteller for good reason. Through our programs we amplify the voices of our fellow Americans — diverse in age, gender, geography, race and political point of view — and provide communities across the country with the opportunity to connect with and better understand one another.

We are committed to telling these authentic stories which cannot be categorized as supporting “identity politics” but represent instead who we all are and aspire to be as Americans fully participating in our civil society.

CPB identifies with the words of retired four-star General Stanley A. McChrystal who describes public media as a lever that “… pushes people, not in a certain direction, but it pushes people up. It brings them to understanding more, and to thinking more.”

Our only direction, leaning neither right or left, is upward. We at CPB are committed to advancing public media’s mission, the work that you do every day in your communities, and the educational, thought-provoking content that helps to strengthen our civil society and that reflects all the diversity of our nation.

In the coming fiscal year, we are developing more plans to focus resources on issues of importance to Americans, ranging from the opioid crisis, to workforce challenges in a changing world and capturing authentic stories and voices from rural America.

Unlike commercial media, public media was created to fill a need: to create and deliver content that is fact-based, educational, informational and thought provoking. Content that can and does serve the civil society requirements of the American people. That is really our mission—to ensure we play an important role through public media moving toward an educated and informed civil society. Every day through our content and services, locally and nationally, we move to make that vision a reality.”

Each day JPR joins NPR member stations around the country in pursuit of this aspirational vision. In an age when so many media outlets have become partisan echo chambers and where adhering to disciplined journalistic standards has become optional, this pursuit is more important than ever. We’re grateful to the diverse range of partners which make our work possible: our licensee, Southern Oregon University; the JPR Foundation, which actively raises essential funding; regional business underwriters and foundations; and, last but not least, the more than 9,000 contributors who step forward each year to support our service to the region.

As we approach our fall fundraising campaign I hope you’ll reflect on the role JPR plays to help create the “educated and informed civil society” envisioned by CPB here in Southern Oregon and Northern California. And, whether you tune in for our contextual, fact-based news, inspired music or creative storytelling programs, I hope you’ll continue to support our effort to “push people up” here in the rural communities that we call home.

Paul Westhelle is JPR’s Executive Director.