New Report Shows Significance of Public Radio in Rural America The Alliance of Rural Public Media released a first-of-its-kind look at the role and impact of public radio in rural America.

New Report Shows Significance of Public Radio in Rural America

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October 11, 2022; Washington, D.C. - The Alliance of Rural Public Media released a first-of-its-kind look at the role and impact of public radio in rural America today. The report, "Connecting America: The Essential Service of Rural Public Radio," is drawn from the 2022 Rural Public Media Survey, which gathered data on the public services, local news coverage, and cultural activities that rural radio stations provide to rural American communities. It also examined the challenges—financial and otherwise—facing these stations.

Data from the report demonstrates how rural public radio remains an essential service for rural Americans across broadcast and digital platforms, and continues to keep rural residents informed. The Alliance of Rural Public Media, a new grassroots initiative, focuses on the service that public radio delivers to rural audiences and provides a collective voice for the work of these stations.

This report details the following:

  • Impact of Local News
  • Emergency Alerts and Public Safety News
  • Local Music and Cultural Preservation
  • Rural Radio News Collaborations
  • Policy Recommendations to Support Rural Radio

"Public broadcasting is a critical institution that educates, informs, and inspires. Nowhere is that more important than in rural America where public radio stations are one of the few locally owned and managed news and information services," said Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR), Founder and Co-Chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus. "During the pandemic, the educational benefits have been magnified because children in rural and small-town America have fewer opportunities. Public radio is also an essential part of emergency warning systems and provides critical safety information in real time. Public radio plays a vital part in the lives of Americans but nowhere is it more evident than for rural America."

"Rural public radio in Nevada is every bit as much infrastructure as electrical power, telephone services, water systems, and other things of that nature," said Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV-2), Co-Chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus. "During a time when everything is viewed through the lens of political preferences, from the source of power to phone companies themselves, there is no mistaking that when it comes down to an emergency, if things get really bad, public radio transmission may be the only link to public safety. Nevadans know that well, and that is true in both cities and rural areas. It is a resource that needs to be maintained."

"A largely rural state like Maine is particularly hard-hit by the decline in newspapers and reduced coverage of rural news," said Rick Schneider, general manager of Maine Public Radio. "Maine Public Radio is uniquely positioned to fill the gaps, sharing rural stories and connecting all Mainers to a shared experience. Robust federal funding is essential for our ability to serve distant counties across the state."

"Public media in rural Alaska isn't an alternative to other media service. It is often the only daily local source of critical health and safety messaging," said Mollie Kabler, executive director of CoastAlaska Inc. "News reporting by local reporters known in their communities is an antidote to distrust of the media and the proliferation of misinformation. Federal support for the infrastructure and operations of small stations is essential to our democracy."

"In many Eastern Kentucky communities, WEKU is the only source of news and information," said Mike Savage, director and general manager of WEKU. "We've told so many stories that impacted our community, including how a local folk singer organized a musical instrument donation program to help Western Kentucky residents who experienced severe loss following deadly tornados in December 2021. It is a prime example of how rural public radio stations are able to tell the story of rural America."

"As a rural station serving four Native American tribes and 13 distinct communities in the remote four corners region, our multiple collaborations with other media outlets are absolutely essential in providing accurate, timely, and relevant news and information to communities," said Tami Graham, KSUT executive director. "In fact, with limited broadband access in most of our region, we are often the only reliable source of critical and timely information in emergency situations."

In January 2023, the Alliance of Rural Public Media will officially launch. In addition to serving as a resource for stations who serve rural Americans, the Alliance will work to expand and deepen the understanding of policy makers about the public service role of rural public media across all 50 states and U.S. territories, and improve the policy, legal and regulatory environments that influence these stations.

You can read the report here.

Contact:

Shana Armstrong, sarmstrong@npr.org, 202-853-6220

Communications & Engagement Manager, Government & External Affairs, NPR

About the Alliance of Rural Public Media: The Alliance of Rural Public Media represents rural public radio stations spanning the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Native American and Island communities. We are an alliance dedicated to advocacy on behalf of these stations, ensuring that rural Americans continue to receive the essential daily local service that public radio provides.