In the Loop

The future (?) of public radio

Posted at 2:39 PM on April 26, 2007 by Jeff Horwich

We had a brisk, thoughtful conversation last night at the Guthrie -- mostly we covered education (what's the point of going to school, anyway?) and issues involving mental health.

At the tail end of things, I switched the subject entirely and asked about the future of public radio. Granted, 15 public radio listeners sitting in a circle are inclined to have a certain amount of faith in the product. But I was curious whether there were doubts in the group about how public radio would fare in the rapidly changing media environment. There were.

The big question for me is the traditional idea of radio -- i.e. turning on a device and tuning in to whatever is served up at that moment -- in an increasingly on-demand world. As the tools for on-demand get more and more prevalent, and listeners begin to confront an ocean of options for content from other sources, what role does the public radio station play? How quickly and how much will people defect?

Will public radio content forever serve as an anchor for those who want reliable information? Or will that number just shrink to a point where there are not enough of them to support the public radio content they love and the whole system falls apart? Personally, I think that's a very real question.

Sound off, all ye public radio lovers and love-to-haters....

April 2007
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