Locals be damned, pubcaster study says

All federal funding for public TV should go into national programming efforts rather than being partially divvied among local stations, a new report recommends.

The study, which will be unveiled here today by N.Y.-based Twentieth Century Fund, urges public TV to undertake major structural changes to ensure its survival.

“Only by reinventing itself can public television meet the needs of the American public in the 21st century,” the report said.

The study recommends:

o A significant increase in federal funding for public TV via auctions or fees imposed on industries that use the broadcast spectrum.

o Expanding educational programming and continuing resistance to commercialization of public TV.

o Changing the selection process to ensure qualifications for Corp. for Public Broadcasting directors.

About half of the $ 251 million doled out annually in federal pubcasting funding goes directly to stations in the form of community service grants. The study recommends ending that program and requiring stations to fend for themselves without federal coin.

Only if a community is deemed “too poor or too remote to support their own stations” would federal funding be continued.

The Twentieth Century Fund is a non-profit, non-partisan research foundation endowed by businessman Edward A. Filene. A task force, with members including FCC commissioner Ervin Duggan, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl and New York media baron Mort Zuckerman, spent eight months studying public TV in preparation for issuing its report.

Vartan Gregorian, president of Brown U. and chairman of the public TV task force, said, “Without a (public TV) network dedicated to informing the audience of the key issues in society, with a perspective on the past, present and future , we will march into a 500-channel universe dominated by home shopping networks.”

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