In a new white paper, the American Enterprise Institute is recommending resurrecting the idea for PBS's Public Square channel (Current, Jan. 19, 2004) as a home for public-affairs content.
Norman Ornstein, lead author of "Creating a Public Square in a Challenging Media Age" — and a former member of the PBS Board — lays out four strategies to increase civic participation via media. It suggests working to keep newspapers alive, establish universal broadband access, get quality information to citizens, and develop a public-square channel, "the likes of which public television envisioned back in the mid-1990s." Ornstein served while PBS President Pat Mitchell was pushing for the Public Square project.
Three ideas for building that channel: Replace broadcasters' public-interest obligations with a rental fee for the use of public airwaves, and use the fee to fund public-affairs programming; create a public-private foundation to allocate money for public-interest purposes; and encourage social networking sites, as well as partnerships between social networking and traditional media.
Here's the full AEI report in PDF form.