“What do we take with us of our old culture when we have to go to a new country? What becomes more important, what is forgotten, what is diluted or strengthened, what is new in the old or old in the new?
Filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger speaks of the past and thre present and, indeed, public media makers in the US find ourselves at a crossroads that is affecting the political, economic, and artistic landscape relative to the role of the maker. With very few exceptions, the traditional approach to long form, sound rich documentary-making is at a low point, with little funding and few opportunities of significance in the United States to reach a meaningful audience. This situation has not come by accident, but is the culmination of a 24-year trajectory that began with the first comprehensive national report on the public radio audience. “Audience (19)88” and the well-funded, widely supported evolution of public radio’s research-driven, news journalism franchise has led the industry to great success in terms of building a significant constituency of core listeners (11% of the American public) and a diverse revenue model drawing from government, foundation, corporations, and average citizens. This evolution as resulted, too, in the virtual elimination of experimental work, and minimized opportunity for producers working in any area outside of news reportage.
At this time of greatest success, the industry is being threatened as never before by the challenges posed by digital media and the explosion of new channels that draw the attention of its traditional audience. There is, at this time of tremendous consolidation, a creative renaissance underway. AIR has, over the last 4-years and with two new initiatives – MQ2 and Localore – begun to exploit this opportunity to develop a new strategy that turns to producers – those who are most adaptive, entrepreneurial…those not constrained by institutional boundaries – to lead new invention that blends traditional, public mission-oriented storytelling, with new digital tools and platforms. Our vision is one that joins together a new creative vanguard of inspired producers with the traditional infrastructure represented by the interconnected network of 1200 public radio and television stations across the U.S. I look forward to hearing, and sharing more in the days ahead."
Sue Schardt, association of independents in radio (AIR), executive director, USA