The consolidation of multinational corporate media giants has had a drastic influence on national dialogue and thought. Discernibly biased cable news and syndicated talk radio affords little more than political agendas and talking points, whereas public broadcasting presents a variety of perspectives targeting a wealth of worldviews. “The kind of show that allows me to explore music… would never fly in the commercial world,” says WDET host Ann Delisi. “To hear a story done in a very in-depth way, with a lot of consideration… I don’t know that if WDET stopped doing that if somebody else is all of a sudden going to.”
“The country is in an information crisis,” says WDET general manager J. Mikel Ellcessor. “We have sort of record levels of people who don’t have a strong relationship to the basic facts of what is going on in our culture…. Just because something is called news doesn’t mean that it’s fact-based.” Most media outlets provide whatever will generate the highest ratings, often sensational exaggerations or weak speculations. “We’re presenting overwhelmingly fact-based programming,” he says. “That is a critical difference.
“The driving question underneath all of this is, ‘is this in the public interest?’” says Ellcessor, “not ‘is this going to improve shareholder return?’” Threats to defund the non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting (to which the average taxpayer contributes around $1.43 per year) have again entered the national discourse, yet the vast majority continues to praise its contributions to society. “They’ve said we like what this does, we think it’s a good use of our money, and it’s doing a good job… we’re kinda doing what people asked us to do.”
While syndicated, opinion-based programming is the most inexpensive to produce, Delisi feels it separates us from the essence of Detroit. “They’re not talking about the streets that I drive on… they’re not talking about things that affect me as a person that lives here… all those connections would be very strained if not completely eliminated if these shows went away,” Delisi says. “That became more of a mandate for me, to connect with this community in a meaningful way…. There’s amazing things that happen in Detroit and I want to help give them a voice.”
WDET 101.9 FM. Ann Delisi’s Essential Music: Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2pm, with local music every hour. For complete show listings, information and streaming audio visit wdetfm.org.
Why public radio? With J. Mikel Ellcessor