Public Media Policybase

National Forum for Public Television Executives: The Case for Change, September 1997

This concise document, making the case for the Forum, was prepared by public TV’s Core Working Group and released in this revised form in September 1997, two months before the Forum was established. See also other Forum documents.

1. The community of PTV stations needs a new process and a framework to address key business opportunities and issues.

  • a. We are faced today with the need to address important issues brought about by advancing technology and increased competition. To be dealt with effectively, these issues need coordinated responses from PTV licensees. Current processes have proven to be less than satisfactory.
  • b. All the time and energy we spend dealing with the consequences of our failure to make decisions steals time and energy from the things we really need to be doing.

2. We need a new process and a framework so we can act decisively in response to competitive pressures and threats.

  • a. The number and strength of competitors for our markets are increasing, and this trend will continue. Our competitors are able to make decisions more quickly and competitively than we can. As a result, we lose key opportunities that could distinguish us in the market. We need a process that allows us to act competitively and decisively when necessary.
  • b. Media companies are consolidating in the hands of a few huge, international players. The telecommunications and television industries are converging around the computer. Ultimately, future decisions to be made by the FCC and Congress will go against us unless we can take unified positions on issues and act as one when necessary.

3. We need a new process and a framework that enables us to more effectively manage our national organizations.

  • a. We need a process and framework that gives us an effective means to identify, discuss, and reach decisions, to plan for our future, and to raise the standards of professionalism within our industry.
  • b. We need a process and framework that enables us to give clear direction to our national and regional organizations. The lack of it leads to mistrust and division, which further erodes the ability of our organizations to be effective.
  • c. We need a process and framework that provides us with answers to tough questions so we can make decisions based on facts, not on assumptions, and communicate those decisions so they stick.

4. We need to change our patterns of interaction and to work together more effectively.

  • a. We don’t have a process to help us understand — and appreciate — the competing views among various interest groups. This results in a tendency to demonize opposing views. This, in turn, spawns a cycle where interest groups get more aggressive and turf-oriented, and public television becomes more splintered. This creates a never-ending cycle that erodes our ability to act productively together.
  • b. We have too often retreated into dialogues within affinity groups. We need to create a process and framework that puts less emphasis on affinity groups, and more emphasis on productive dialogue among our natural interest groups.
  • c. The fractured nature of our industry causes general managers to become less active in the national arena out of pessimism and frustration. We need a process that encourages managers to think positively about public television’s future and that attracts the best new managers to our industry.
  • d. Public television stations are a lifeline for our communities. We need to do everything possible to protect them. Ultimately, the weakening of public television poses the risk of weakening American society.

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