Commercial-Free Future

We’re awash in data. More news and information exist on your smartphone than even the best-connected journalist could access as recently as 20 years ago. Yet high-quality, in-depth, expert reporting on universal issues seems harder to find. And with so much incoming data — and so much of it commercially driven — it’s tempting to get buried by the avalanche and stop caring. Public broadcasting aims to mitigate this by providing information that’s not beholden to a single commercial interest. It’s also under fire: Broadcasters anticipate a decline in funding of more than one third — from $1.7 billion annually to $1.2 billion — between 2008 and 2013, according to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. What will become of this sector of the fourth estate? Two of the biggest names in the business discuss it tonight in PBS — The Past, Present, and Future. Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, and John Boland, president of KQED, speak with Robert Rosenthal, head of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. Kerger was a high-level executive in the nation’s two biggest public TV stations (both in New York) before taking over at PBS, while Boland oversees television and radio that’s among the most seen and heard in American public media. Given the current challenges, maintaining a well-funded system might seem absurd. “But,” Bill Moyers recently reminded a group of broadcast executives, “Albert Einstein did say: ‘If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.’”
Mon., Nov. 28, 6 p.m., 2011

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