Peabody Awards Organizers Define a New Media Culture
Regular readers may recall last month that I wrote about taking part in a special seminar on the future of television convened at the University of Georgia by the same folks who hand out the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcasting.
Our goal: to somehow distill all the changes facing our TV culture and come up with some insights on how to maintain Peabody-level quality, even as digital media technology ravages the business model of every media outlet in sight.
What we came up with is now displayed on the Peabody Web site, and can be summed up in a single phrase: The need for a New Public Media Culture.
The links between communication and community must be remembered, reinvented, and deployed.
The following proposals result from our assessment
• Industry leaders, policy makers, and citizens’ groups must work toward the creation of various types of “media commons.” These channels, networks or other media spaces must be available to provide opportunities for encounters and exchanges among different and differing groups rather than retreat into gated communities for the like-minded.
• Citizens’ groups and industry leaders should collaborate with policy makers to define and recognize varying forms and levels of “public good.” Terms must be defined both more precisely and more broadly to address the larger collective national culture as well as local communities.
• Artists and audiences – of all orientations, colors, and genders – must participate in ways that enrich the new television culture and raise issues of public importance. Groups should devise strategies for presenting their own goals and values to others, who might challenge or be challenged by them. To achieve this aim, industry leaders and practitioners must increase and intensify efforts to diversify personnel at all levels and in all roles in the media industries. Reports of these efforts must become part of the public record.
• Across the board, industry leaders and policy makers must work to provide access for all communities and to overcome the financial divides that restrict some citizens to a narrow range of content. Strategies to accomplish this goal should be developed by projects comprising citizens’ groups, industry, legislative, and policy representatives.
The new media environment requires re-definition of the strategies and actions of industry professionals, policy makers, regulators and citizens’ groups. Reliance on old models is no longer an option for those who take seriously the central role of media in public culture.
The Peabody/Loyless Seminar and a resulting “State of Television” report will become an annual project of the Peabody Center for Media and Society housed in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The seminar is made possible by the Donald Loyless Fund, instituted by Augustus Shaw Loyless, in honor of his father. The Loyless Fund established a permanent relationship with the George Foster Peabody Awards in 2005 through the generosity of Ms. Helen Loyless.
This year’s inaugural seminar was convened in October at the Peabody Center and included a public forum. The panelists were journalistic TV critics Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times; and David Bianculli of the New York Daily News and National Public Radio’s cultural series Fresh Air; and Noel Holston, a veteran of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and New York’s Newsday.
The scholars taking part were Lynn Spigel, chair of the Radio/Television/Film Department at Northwestern University; Jeffrey Jones, associate professor of TV, Film and Popular Culture at Old Dominion University; and Mary Beltran, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Horace Newcomb, Director of the Peabody Awards and the Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabodys in the Grady School at UGA, moderated the discussions."