Leslie Fields-Cruz
OCTOBER 11, 2022




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

How Black is the Future of Public Media?

Contemplating the future of public media is an evergreen activity among people in my position. We’re always trying to figure out what type of content public media audiences need and want, and then how best to deliver it to them.

October marks the beginning of BPM’s new fiscal year. So lately, I’ve found myself asking: As public television stations expand their presence on digital platforms, what role should BPM play in both funding and distributing digital content about the Black experience?

In 2008, the Center for Media and Social Impact published The Future of Public Media: FAQ. Funded by the Ford Foundation, CMSI’s paper opens with a discussion about public media’s role in a democracy.

"The right to vibrant public media is an extension of the right to freedom of speech. A healthy democracy includes spaces and tools for members of the public to have informed conversations about issues of public significance and what to do about them."

 The FAQ also asserts that:

"The best public media don’t just provide information, but contribute to helping people understand ongoing and complicated issues. They offer models for respectful and engaging conversation." 

Even a cursory look at BPM-funded titles and engagement activities over the past year reveals that our commitment to delivering stories about “ongoing and complicated issues,” hasn’t wavered since our founding in 1979. But we want these programs to be as accessible to those who consume media online as they are to those who watch their local public television stations. Achieving that goal means we’ve got to ramp up our digital distribution game.

BPM program collage-22
A sample assortment of BPM-funded titles.

Fortunately, BPM is no newcomer to digital distribution. We began streaming content on our YouTube channel back in 2006. And we are currently participating in the Poynter Institute’s Digital Transformation Program (DTP), funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The DTP is helping to strengthen our staff’s digital distribution competencies.

Early next year, we will launch a new digital shorts series. As we prepare to market that series to new audiences on our YouTube channel, we need a better understanding of who is already consuming our content online. In a few days, you will receive an invitation to participate in a brief BPM audience survey. I hope you will take a few minutes to complete it. The information you provide will assist us in forming the baseline from which we will measure our digital marketing, engagement and distribution efforts in the months and years ahead.

Thanks, in advance, for your participation. Together, we’ll ensure that the present and future of public media includes Black stories and Black storytellers.

Finally, I hope you will join us this Thursday (Oct. 13) for our virtual fall mixer in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Latino Public Broadcasting and BPM invite all to attend as we celebrate the power of public media to carry forward the stories of our people. Admission is free, but registration is required.

Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Acton Family Giving.  For more information about underwriting and contributions, please contact Alisa Norris (Alisa@ blackpublicmedia.org). To donate, click here! In addition, you can donate to BPM through your Amazon purchases by going to smile.amazon.com/ch/31-1335950.

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