Public Media Autonomy and Accountability


I recently published an article with Matt Powers and Tim Neff entitled, “Public Media Autonomy and Accountability: Best and Worst Policy Practices in 12 Leading Democracies,” in the International Journal of Communication 11 (2017): 1-22.

We show why public media are so important for democracy and how the relatively weak public media (NPR, PBS) in the United States could be made stronger and more autonomous.

Here is the article abstract:

Public media’s contributions to democracy are well established. Less widely known are the specific policies that make these contributions possible. This study finds that professional autonomy and civic accountability in public media are supported by (1) funding established for multiyear periods; (2) legal charters that restrict partisan government influence while also mandating the provision of diverse, high-quality programming; (3) oversight agencies, whose “arm’s length” independence from the government in power is bolstered through staggered terms and the dispersal of authority to make appointments; and (4) audience councils and surveys designed to strengthen links to diverse publics. Public media governed by policies that continue and extend, rather than depart from, these best practices will likely be the most successful in maintaining their civic mission online.