Letter to the Editors

Technology opens door to sharing content

To the editors,

Regarding your recent article about discussions of audience-building strategies for public radio at last month’s Public Radio Program Directors conference, I do note with interest this exchange:

During a Q&A in Las Vegas, John Van Hoesen, v.p. for news and programming at Vermont Public Radio, asked NPR Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson whether NPR would produce more newsmagazine-like programming for middays.

Wilson questioned whether NPR has the capacity to help fill that gap. But both he and David Kansas, c.o.o. of Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, said that stations and networks could work together more to share content, creating a system for allowing local stations to pick up and air each other’s reporting. “There are some interesting things that new technology makes possible there,” Kansas said.

NPR, MPR/APM and hundreds of stations are Public Radio Exchange members, and they can share unlimited audio for stations at any time, with any terms they wish to set. The “technology” through PRX makes it possible for any producer, station or network to make content openly available.

Last year more than 17,000 programs or pieces were licensed and broadcast by stations, podcasters and our own Public Radio Remix service (though Remix is a small fraction of the whole) through PRX.org. We’re on track to far exceed that in 2012. NPR posts some jazz programming and the podcast How to Do Everything to PRX.org; APM posts occasional American RadioWorks programs.

We wish that NPR, APM and Public Radio International would consider doing a lot more — opening their archives, offering select pieces and segments from national shows to all stations (KUOW has found engaging ways to program disaggregated network content), and redistributing classic material (Studio 360’s series, for example, are excellent). PRX.org also has ways to control access based on affiliation fees, so only “member” stations would get access to certain content.

Hundreds of stations and thousands of producers already take advantage of PRX’s reach.

The creators of the content on PRX retain full ownership of their works on PRX.org. A WNYC program distributed on PRX, unless otherwise negotiated, is and always will be a WNYC show. A network program or pieces or series belong to the network, not PRX. We do not co-brand that content as ours unless through some special arrangement.

PRX believes stations and listeners have helped pay for decades of incredible content, most of which, in the right context, can continue to touch, enthrall and inform listeners — in fresh ways, in new frames of relevance. We could, perhaps, spend less time creating new and costly national programs if stations also had access to proven content that they could locally program and contextualize for their own listeners. KUT does this each week with O’Dark 30, a quirky, entertaining mix that thrills late-night fans. Some content comes from PRX but a lot comes from other sources.

The barrier to sharing is not technology. PRX has built the system. After nine years, PRX.org is a proven, reliable, inexpensive, powerful open-distribution and curatorial tool for showing off the best of what everyone is doing in public radio. We encourage networks and stations to embrace PRX even further so that smart programmers and listeners benefit.

John Barth
Managing Director, Public Radio Exchange
Cambridge, Mass.

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