npr versus neoliberal media
gosh npr sure seems to be branching out into the world lately. first of all, now that he is no longer hosting "nightline," ted koppel is now contributing to a bunch of npr shows. then there was a recent announcement that my favorite program on npr, ira glass' "this american life" is being turned into a television series for showtime. also, of course, in about a month and a half the new robert altman movie based on garrison keillor's "a prairie home companion" is being released starring just about everyone in hollywood. this recent shift from the below-90 channels on fm radio to popular mass media is really conflicting for me.
on saturday i was listening to the pledge drive on npr and ira glass was giving this speech about how if you value something and benefit from it personally you should pay for it. he compared npr listeners to the one and a half million people who bought sirius radios after howard stern went satellite. he said that if npr listeners valued the station as much as howard stern listeners valued their self-proclaimed king of all media then they would all be willing to pay to continue to listen to the station. anyways, this whole speech made me really sad. i don't understand the logic that the only people who should benefit from truly valuable media are those who can afford to do so financially. the whole argument seems way to couched in neoliberalism for me.
frankly i don't think that there is any source of good, reliable, more or less unbiased news in the u.s. other than shows on npr (e.g. "all things considered," "the world," and "morning edition"). i read cnn.com a dozen times a day, watch nancy grace every night and probably catch news in hundreds of other places each week. but i am always suspect of the information i receive, except when I am listening to npr. for some reason, this media outlet has been able to escape the traps that have led cnn, msnbc, fox news and the new york times
woefully into an inescapable pit of bias and misinformation. why is npr different? i think the reason lies in its status as a commercial free nonprofit enterprise.
so this is what disturbs me when i hear glass comparing npr to satellite radio (an unabashedly commercial enterprise.) i think npr should be different. it shouldn't rely on selling a product to its viewers the way that howard stern sells whatever it is he is producing. it should strive to stay out the grip of the neoliberals. If it becomes controlled by a conservative (or leftist) media logic that emphasizes the salability of the network's programming, rather than its quality, then it risks not being able to escape this trap. then it will become just another sick fascination for me like primetime on fox news, rather than a legitimate respectable source of information.
this leads me to a prairie home companion
. i have been looking forward to this movie almost more than any other coming out this year. first of all i love garrison keillor and the npr show. the movie also stars a lot of people i really enjoy (meryl streep, lily tomlin, woody harrelson, virginia madsen, lindsay lohan and john c. reilly). and the trailer looks really great. you can see for yourself here
. but i also fear that if npr producers start marketing shows like "companion" and "this american life" as profit building enterprises and start inviting formed bastions of the neoliberal media like koppel to participate in network programming, then the wall between npr and everyone else is starting to get a lot thinner from my perspective.