Discussing trust and quality with PBS folks

I had dinner last night with my fellow panelists — Amanda Hirsch from PBS, Heidi Swillinger from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Meredith Nierman from WGBH-TV in Boston — at the Border Grille at Mandalay Bay. The food was decent (a little spicy for me), but the conversation was excellent. I always enjoy tossing Postmodernist bombs in a crowd of Modernist thinkers.

PBS is fighting the same disruptions as other broadcasters, although they’re shielded somewhat by their mission. Amanda talked about the high level of trust that PBS enjoys, and we had fun arguing about whether that trust was universal or limited to those whose ideology the network represents (Is there really an ideology with PBS? I guess it depends on the program).

We also had fun talking about quality and the value of a hierarchical system that separates the wheat from the chaff. PBS is proud of its quality programming. Quality is a highly subjective matter, of course, and I argued that it can easily mask perspective.

The subject of our panel is the citizens media revolution, and I suspect PBS will have a more difficult time with this than others. That’s why I’m looking forward to the session and its questions. The roots of PBS are nurtured in academia and intellectualism, both of which aren’t generally “bottom-friendly” in our top-down world. Empowering the bottom, which is what technology is doing, poses threats to any institution in our culture, and all the trust and quality in the world doesn’t change that

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