Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: January 3, 2009

Over the holidays, I came across the first line of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and was inspired to use it as a review of where we are in the world of public media at WOSU. Tell me your thoughts.

“It was the best of times;”

The Obama administration platform plans to foster “the next generation of public media,” and “support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world.” A nice change compared to the previous administration, which zeroed out public broadcasting’s minimal federal support every budget. Let’s hope the Obama camp understands the power of public media to transform communities.

“it was the worst of times;”

The state of Ohio faces an incredible $7.3 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. In the past two years, the state has substantially reduced support for public broadcasting. What’s next?

“it was the age of wisdom;”

Digital broadcasting was conceived for all the wrong reasons over a decade ago, but it may be the savior for over-the-air broadcasters like WOSU. We can provide more public service – more national and local programming – and better quality. We’ve become what I call “bitcasters” rather than broadcasters as we creatively think about splitting our digital signal to provide a number of new services in the future (i.e. mobile television, emergency alerts).

“it was the age of foolishness;”

As the February 17th federally mandated transition to digital broadcasting looms, the federal government is trying to help us transition analog television sets to digital, but many will still find their television broadcasts disappear in about six weeks.

As of today, some 8 million U.S. households are unprepared for the transition. The government has failed to focus the necessary funding and resources on those most in need of the financial and technical support – the poor and the elderly. Instead, they’re spending $1.3 billion on a coupon program for everyone with an analog TV. The money is great, but it is not placed where it is needed most. We made a special request to NTIA (the government org responsible for the converter coupon program) to assist us with coupons for our unique partnership with LifeCare Alliance and COAAA to help those most in need with the transition. We were turned down flat.

“it was the epoch of belief;”

We have faith that public media will survive this time of economic distress, because it is one of the only trusted media left in the country. As we’ve seen in Detroit and Chicago recently, the newspaper industry is in great distress. Media as a whole seems hyper focused on either entertainment or political extremes. It’s an opportune time for NPR, PBS and local public media to establish their base as providing serious journalism. If we do, we believe you support it.

“it was the epoch of incredulity:”

We are astonished to see our endowments shrink, our governmental funds at great risk, but also amazed at the commitment of our membership and underwriters, despite the times.

“it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair;”

We can only believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel – that public media stations across America won’t go dark as they face serious fiscal challenges. While WOSU has been able to weather the storm so far, many stations (WGBH – Boston, Chicago Public Radio, Maine Public Broadcasting, and many others) have trimmed their staff due to budget shortfalls. Even NPR has faced a “winter of despair” cutting 64 employees and the programs Day to Day and News & Notes.

“we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

At WOSU, we have such an amazing opportunity to use the new technologies for public service rather than profit. There is a necessity in this complex world for a non-commercial, nonprofit, locally based media organization. To assure that, we are changing before our eyes, developing more programming through unique partnerships, engaging the public online and through social media tools, and building new digital media streams. A single local radio or television program has relevance well beyond broadcast now and often the online value exceeds that of broadcast.

On February 17th, after 53 years on the air, the analog channel 34 disappears from the Columbus landscape and is replaced, incredibly, by WOSU HD (our new primary channel), WOSU Ohio, and WOSU Create. Three channels take the place of one. WOSU FM has two HD Radio channels and soon a third – expanding its public service remarkably due to digital technology.

It’s been an expensive ride, but we do believe we have “everything before us…”

What do you think?

  • tigersgrowl

    I never knew about that. Had I known, I would have listened to local radio because my data is capped within the first week due to all the 3G radio I listen to. This will be a great help however, I use the Kyrocera Event (don’t laugh, it was only $20 and I got a mortgage) with the Virgin Mobile service using the Sprint network. I contacted Virgin just now, we’ll have to see if they give me the run around as expected with most phone companies or not. If they do, I won’t give up there, I will consult the blogs and forums. If there is a way, I will find it.

    • Jessie

      @tigersgrowl, I also have Virgin Mobile and they use the Sprint network. I will call them also, but I would really appreciate if you post your updates.

  • Yoga Bear

    “I want my FM Radio! Unlock the FM chip in all smartphones you sell so I can get important emergency information when data networks are unavailable and reduce the amount of data I use each month.

    Thank you. I have a HTC one m7 I have looked and the phone has a FM chip and I have Verizon I have called there tech support and they told me all I need to do is find a radio app, you can’t find one that will work without the net, theses company’s just lies to get you off the phone, so I called HTC by the way Verizon told me not to do that, so me being one not to do what I’m told lol I called any ways, HTC told me that they will be updating to lollipop in a few months and then they’re going to come out with the update that send you a FM radio to your phone that they have been working on it for several months without any support from Verizon Wireless so they’ve taken it on their self to go ahead and make a program to turn on the FM chip so that it will work so that we can have free FM radio on our smartphones, we will see. I’ll give them two months if they don’t do it I’m calling back.

    • Joseph Ogidan

      I had a Nokia phone back in 2008 that had a radio. All I needed to activate it was my head phone, and it worked perfectly well.

  • jeremiah stansbury

    please its our rite we paid for the phone why cant we have fm radio it wont cost you any thing to keep the public informed

  • callthemanufacture

    you’re provider has nothing to do with this they do not make the phones so be sure to call the manufacture the provider does not have a way to unlock this so don’t blame them and give more information on fm chips besides call your provider

    • Irwin Busk

      You are very incorrect. The provider orders the phone with their preferred software load, and with certain features and applications locked. The carrier can provide an “unlock” code, but is not required to by law. many will do so, if you are near the end of your contract.

  • sm spfld ma

    Radio is not a right. I’m all for the chip being activated but come on. npr is using you to push their agenda and getting this activated. It’s a scarf tactic. We all got text messages from the weather service when the tornado was on its way to western ma. Say you did have a radio on the phone then; how many people would put the radio on? I Google the tornado then and got the info I needed. Don’t be fools: you’re bejng used by public radio cronies to get more people to listen to PUBLIC RADIO. It’s a cheap marketing initiative.

    • Mrpockets

      If you are all about activating the chip then why are you urging people not to ask for it? Sure it’s an agenda. Everyone has an agenda. For all we know, you could hold a bunch of stock in Pandora and are pushing your own agenda by trying to make people feel stupid for wanting access to something that they’ve always had. That’s what you sound like to me.

  • Floyd Durham

    I just contacted Virgin and they claimed to have no knowledge of any of this. I was told that basically it probably not real and that just because it says so on the internet it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t want people using it then they loose money for data use….Like the owner of Virgin needs more money..lol

  • Byron Edgington

    What a wonderful, warm and kind human being. Fred Rogers will always be my hero. When my daughter Amanda was four, her grandmother (my mother) died, and ‘Manda was bereft at losing her. She decided to write to her TV friend, ‘Mikkah Rogers.’ The letter went in the mail, and a month later, Amanda received a warm, understanding letter from Fred Rogers. In the letter, he wrote as he spoke on TV, a show Amanda wouldn’t miss for the world. He said the very same people who are glad sometimes are the very same people who are sad sometimes. He told my daughter how sad he was for her loss, and he signed the letter, ‘Your friend, Mister Rogers.’ Amanda still has the letter. It’s one of her cherished possessions. The world needs more people like my hero, Fred Rogers.