It’s not talked about much by broadcasters these days, but radio stations are licensed to operate “in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.” It’s a requirement; one that dates back to the 1920s. Arguably, it’s in broadcasting’s DNA.
What does “in the public interest” sound like? One answer is “The Path to Primary Care,” a radio documentary produced in 2015 by Karen Brown at New England Public Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts. To my mind, the story meets the “public interest” test because it tackles an issue of community concern — the serious lack of primary care physicians.
The full name of the documentary is “The Path to Primary Care: Who Will Be the Next Generation of Frontline Doctors.” And, another way the report meets the test is because it’s local, though the subject matter has national appeal. Historically, broadcasters defined “public interest,” in part, as local. In fact, local programming was so important to “public interest” it was a philosophy – “localism.” Community first.
On top of all this, the documentary is very simply a good story, well told. That, too, serves audiences.
So, a tip of the radio hat to Karen, my guest on HowSound today, and New England Public Radio for their commitment to broadcasting’s core value: operating in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.
We only feature excerpts from the documentary on HowSound. To hear the entire story, listen at PRX.