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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Big Bird

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November 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Radio silence: Does the debate over public funding really matter to young voters?

Seattle — Ever since Romney brought up Big Bird in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, 2012, feathers have been flying. Liberal commentators condemned his desire to cut funding for public broadcasting, arguing that the .0014 percent of the federal budget it takes up is a small price to pay for public broadcasting’s educational returns, while conservatives countered by saying that even this small portion is unnecessary fat, and should be trimmed off the nation’s unbalanced budget.

Ultimately, however, the question is whether young people value public programming enough to make this partisan tiff relevant after the election.

(Photo illustration by Joseph Sutton-Holcomb / UW Election Eye)

Keith Seinfeld is the assistant news director for KPLU. This Seattle-based radio station received $513,392 in 2011 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes funding on behalf of the U.S. government to public TV and radio stations. He said that 45- to 65-year-olds make up the largest proportion of their audience, and that the station often discusses how to connect with millennials during big-picture planning.

“We don’t just want to ride off into the sunset with this baby boom audience,” he said.

KPLU’s aging demographic is typical across the nation. According to an analysis of NPR’s demographic nation-wide, by Arbitron, the average age of the 26.4 million weekly NPR listeners is 49, descending to 40 for, and 36 for their podcasts.

It makes you wonder whether the millennial generation (18-35-year-olds) are seriously invested in the programming. In this age of increasingly decentralized independent content, is the centralized, publically-funded broadcast model the bedrock of American media culture, or a fossil?


Comments | Topics: baby boomers, Barack Obama, Big Bird