While LA suffered through another hyperbolic "Storm Watch" last week, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and by extension NPR (and by further extension KCRW & KPCC) suffered through their own Storm Watch as Congress voted to in essence eliminate the agency. At first glance this could be viewed as truly devastating news.
Where would many of us be without SESAME STREET (stuck in CAILOU Hell...but that's another story) providing us with a perhaps Utopian but albeit egalitarian and multicultural view of the world? What would journalism be without FRONTLINE and its groundbreaking long form presentation of topics that local broadcast outlets would relegate to 3 and 1/2 minutes? There would be no DIY without Norm and Steve (I still think Steve's coming back) on THIS OLD HOUSE?
CPB helps fund those programs and hundreds of public broadcasting stations across the country. NPR does much of the same work; producing thousands of hours of programs on an annual basis as well as keeping many radio stations afloat in big and small markets (sorry...media geek speak....cities). No doubt about it, the value that CPB brings to the American Experience is immeasurable. But...(c'mon you know there's always a BUT with me).
Its interesting that both KPCC and KCRW have taken to the airwaves to extol (I'm being generous here) listeners into donating by detailing how this cut in funding to CPB will result in over a MILLION Dollars in lost revenue. Now I suppose that its smart of them to use the Storm on the Horizon as a means to get folks, who might otherwise not donate. to open up their wallets (trust me there's tons of non-profits out there just a wee bit jealous). Now with each of these entities having over 400,000 weekly listeners (Arbitron LOS ANGELES; DEC10; Metro; M-Su 6a-12m; P 12+......sorry, more geek speak) you'd think that they could do quite well in getting more and more listeners to become contributors. You'd think...
Yeah, well as some of you regular readers to this blog remember these two stations have chosen to ignore the diversity that exists in this city. So instead of having the ability to generate resources from the largest section of the population, they have to enlist scare tactics to illicit more contributions from their core base. I suppose that this is easier to do the aforementioned than hiring more Latino and African American commentators to generate a larger audience. Liberal intelligentsia for all its noble causes and efforts (many of which I am on the same side of the field) must come to grips with the ever changing demographics of the LA DMA.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...the notion of a Latino is a uniquely American experience. With over 45% of the population, if these stations index at the same level as the overall population (sorry...have the same percentage of Latino listeners as the percentage of the population) KPCC would have about 209,250 Latino listeners.
Call me naive and stupid (apparently I'd be in the same boat as Lalo Alcaraz but that's a really inside joke), but if you asked each one of those Latinos to kick in just $5 bucks.....VOILA you get over a Million bucks (or over 12 Million Pesos...sorry couldn't help it). Obviously we wouldn't qualify for the coffee mug or sweatshirt but they throw in a couple of downloads with that $5 bucks and we'll call it even. Even...balanced....diverse....oh wait a minute those might be strange concepts. The lack of perspective from voices of people of color will forever condemn entities like KPCC and KCRW to have to resort to STORM WATCH like announcements (where's Paul Moyer when you need him).
So why the need for a Latino voice (besides as a means of generating more donations from Latino listeners)? A good case in point was last week's coverage of the LA County Sheriff's Office releasing to the public the files it had on the death of Ruben Salazar. I found it interesting that while listening to the reporting that was done that neither KCRW or KPCC had any Latino commentators speak on the matter. Its not that you needed a Latino forensic specialist to talk about the details of how the death was accidental and that the investigation was pretty botched up (BTW, it's not like they got a Latino forensic specialist).
They could have had someone talking about the importance of the death of Ruben Salazar with respect to its impact on Chicano Civil Rights in this country. Nope that didn't happen. They could have had someone speaking to how far we have come from that day's tragedy to the present from a political or economic perspective.
They could have done a lot of things but that would require them to look beyond themselves and that may be too much to ask. So maybe the impending doom which lurks in the dark world of the US House of Representatives will provide the impetus for change. One can only hope...yes the Audacity of Hope may well come to an NPR station near you.