Instead, I'm going to explain why I think public radio (and public broadcasting in general) is so important.
First, and probably more important to me than to others, is the lack of commercial interests. I am not a huge fan of capitalism (there... I said it) for a number of reasons, but the most important being that I am not okay with huge heartless corporations controlling what I watch and listen to. Nor am I a fan of being bombarded with commercials for 1/3 of the time I spend watching/listening. Commercials that, most of the time, are at the least over-idealizing and at the worst outright lying about the products they are trying to sell. Yes, I know, I'm a big fat socialist hippy. But while this whole "survival of the fittest" system may be great for our (and by "our" I mean the 2% of Americans who run huge corporations and make boatloads of money) wallets it will eventually result in the downfall of our (and by "our" I mean everyone else) health and freedom of conscience. Many may make the argument "well, if they don't have enough money, no one must be listening" since public broadcasting does rely in part on listener contributions. But how does the amount of money that the average listener can contribute compare to the amount that huge companies like Walmart and McDonalds pay commercial radio stations?
Content wise, I know most people associate two things with public radio- talk, and classical music. This is not always the case- here in Minnesota we have the most AMAZING... rock? station. Okay, I don't know what to call it. They play everything, from influential 50's music to new local stuff. Mostly adult alternative, but that's one of the great things about the station- it's not pigeonholed into one genre. They can play whatever they want. But I can guarantee that no one who listens to The Current (the station's name) watched the Grammy's the other night and said "who's Arcade Fire?" They have introduced me to so much AWESOME new music that, for like the first time in my life, I can call up my sister and be like "have you heard this band, they're amazing!" and she'll actually have never heard of the band! Some of my personal favorites from the last 6 months that I would have never heard of without them: Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Sleigh Bells, Mumford and Sons, and Avett Brothers, Best Coast, Band of Horses, Local Natives, School of Seven Bells... And something about being "up" on recent music makes me feel a little less
Vanity aside, public radio is important because they aren't on the air to make money. They're on the air to promote a sense of community, whatever the content is. The Current, in particular, is a huge community influence in that they promote local shows, play songs from popular local bands, and often have local acts on for interviews to promote new albums. In addition they host several events over the course of the year that promote community involvement- for example, this weekend they're hosting an event called "Rock the Cradle," which is an entire day of family friendly music meant for parents and young children to enjoy together. You can bet that my kids and I will be there. And it's totally free- no commercial radio station is going to do something like that for free unless there is some other commercial gain for them.
I also have to say that I am in the minority that likes talk radio, depending on the content. I like to learn things, and I find that most public radio content is interesting and relevant (there was one show I caught last summer about sunspots that was a total snore... but it was an anomaly) particularly when it comes to politics, news, and opinion.
Take it from someone who spent five years living in a capitalist "utopia"- the inland empire of California. There was no public radio in the IE, at least not that I could pick up. My only choices were classic rock, country, rock en espanol, hip hop, and top 40. All of them crappy. It was torture- the only tolerable station played entirely too much Breaking Benjamin for my taste. Thank GOD for Pandora. This is because commercially motivated radio stations try too hard to appeal to everyone (hint- I used the word "try").
Do you have a good public radio station? Do you know? Check it out. And if you already listen and you don't support them financially SHAME ON YOU!
The reason this is relevant is because next week the House of Representatives is voting to eliminate most or all of the funding for public broadcasting. I understand that there is need to cut the budget. I just hope that they don't cut ALL funding for public broadcasting, because once lost we may never be able to get it back.
And can you imagine not growing up with Sesame Street? I can't.
BTW, if you want to check out my station, they stream live.