Executive Summary Introduction
Broadcasters have a mandate to serve the public interest of the communities in which they operate. Given the diversity of communities in the United States, there is a multitude of needs which could be and are addressed over the public airwaves by broadcasters. Indeed, broadcasters are recognizably in a very unique position – every station in the country is a local station and very much a part of the community it is licensed to serve.
Public affairs activities are an integral part of broadcast stations' community involvement. Through public affairs activities, stations help increase awareness of issues that affect their audiences. Radio and television broadcasters invest both programming and non-programming time and efforts to educate and involve their communities.
Programming activities include, but are not limited to, public service announcements wherein stations donate valuable commercial time for messages alerting the public about health threats and other issues. Stations also produce public affairs programs featuring in-depth discussions of problems and remedies. In addition to these programming efforts, broadcasters initiate or are involved in many activities and community groups aimed at educating and involving their communities.
While the ways in which broadcasters are involved in their communities may seem similar, every local broadcaster's efforts are different. Public service campaigns undertaken by stations nationwide integrate on-air and off-air efforts. Additionally, since each station cannot address every need of its given community as its top priority, stations each focus on different needs, thus addressing overall the diversity of issues within a community. In any given community, the local broadcasters' unique responses and approaches to the diversity of issues is also supplemented by major national efforts.
Our state association, in partnership with the National Association of Broadcasters, conducted a survey of television and radio stations in Idaho to determine the extent of station participation in public affairs activities. A variety of methodologies were employed to reach stations – with mail, fax, and Internet surveys sent out between January and April 2006. The response rate of Idaho broadcasters was 46%, as 6 of the 12 commercial television stations licensed to the state (50%) are represented in the data, as are 44 of the 97 radio stations (45%).
The census revealed that Idaho radio and television stations contributed approximately 90 million dollars worth of service to their communities during 2005. The data were collected, tabulated and analyzed by Public Opinion Strategies, an Alexandria, Virginia-based opinion research firm.