Event Details

Public Media and Political Influence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism from Around the World

February 15th, 2011

5:30 - 8:00 pm

20 Cooper Square, 7th floor

To RSVP: http://www.nyu.edu/ipk/events/152

Rodney Benson and Matthew Powers, NYU Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

Emily Bell, Director, Columbia University Tow Center for Digital Journalism

Ellen Goodman, Professor of Law, Rutgers University – Camden

Maxie Jackson, President and CEO, National Federation of Community Broadcasters

Hartmut Wessler, Professor, University of Mannheim Department of Communication


Public media in America are weathering new attacks on their funding and independence, at the same time they are being asked to fill the widening news and information gap left by the shifting media landscape. At the heart of these attacks is a question: Can government play a positive role in helping promote quality, independent journalism?

In a new international study of public media systems in 14 leading democracies, NYU media scholars Rodney Benson and Matthew Powers analyze the concrete ways that other countries fund and protect the autonomy of their public media. Their findings may surprise you. Public media in these countries are legally protected from partisan political interference and their organizational structures ensure that journalists have the autonomy to do their jobs. As a result, public media – television, radio, newspapers, and online news – often provide more and higher quality public affairs coverage, a wider range of viewpoints, and even are more critical of government – than their commercial media counterparts.

Public media in the U.S. have also more than proven their worth and are consistently rated among the most trusted media sources in public opinion surveys. Yet our public media system is among the poorest in the world: per capita public funding of PBS and NPR is less than $4, a drop in the bucket compared to the $30 to $130 per capita invested by countries like Germany, Canada, Sweden, and Great Britain.

As journalists, foundations, citizens, and policy-makers seek creative ways to support more quality, independent journalism, Benson and Powers’ study provides powerful evidence that public media have a positive role to play. Find out more about what we can learn from public media around the world.


This event is co-sponsored by The American Assembly, Free Press, New America, NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, and the Social Science Research Council.