BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now we turn to Carol Pierson, who is president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters which represents many small and some large locally-based public radio stations. Welcome to the show, Carol.
CAROL PIERSON: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Could this, in a sense, signal the beginning of the end of public radio? I mean it was created as an alternative to the commercially-funded fare on the rest of the dial - made possible by the listeners. But satellite radio is going to offer much the same thing and more, and it comes in higher fidelity, and it doesn't fade out when you drive outside of the listening area.
CAROL PIERSON: Well, I don't think so, because I think there is a huge amount of interest on the part of the listeners for local content, and these national services are not going to provide that local content.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But local content can cost a lot of money to produce, and it may be some time before a lot of those stations can provide really effective local programming. In the meantime, do you think public radio on satellite radio could hurt them?
CAROL PIERSON: You know, I really don't think so. I mean you can do local content without, you know, a major investment, and I think that we're still in a period of time where expanded exposure to public radio will increase listening to public radio on the local stations, on satellite, on the internet. I think there's still great potential growth for public radio, and it's why I think it's a mistake for stations to be stopping NPR from putting some of the best programs on the satellite.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you're saying the important thing is to get the brand of public radio out there, even if you have to put it on pay radio to do it.
CAROL PIERSON: It will bring people to the local stations, ultimately. Now, it's interesting that XM is clearly using public radio as the brand for this channel, which is, I think, a sign of how successful public radio is these days. But it also seems to me that in some ways public radio is losing control over that brand, because somebody who isn't public radio and that isn't responsible to public radio is producing it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Does NPR feel the hot breath of XM on its tail?
CAROL PIERSON: Well, I can't really speak for NPR.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Ought it feel the hot breath of-- [LAUGHTER] XM on its tail?
CAROL PIERSON: Well, I think that certainly it's competition for listening time, and we know that the amount of time that people listen determines a lot whether they feel like a station is important enough to give money to it. On the other hand, I think that listeners often don't differentiate between whether they're listening to public radio on one particular station or another, to the degree that we at the station level do. And so, I think having more options out there can be an advantage.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I'm thinking about the PBS analogy. PBS used to offer something that you couldn't get elsewhere in television. Science shows, for instance. Then you got the Discovery Channel. Historical programs. Then you got the History Channel. British costume dramas; then you got A&E and BBC America. Suddenly, with the exception of perhaps Sesame Street, there wasn't anything special that PBS provided. Couldn't public radio be weak in the same way?
CAROL PIERSON: Well, I think that's possible, and there's definitely - many stations are, are very concerned about it, particularly because XM really is developing this and controlling it themselves, whereas the channels on Sirius are programmed and controlled by National Public Radio and by Public Radio International, and I think, if you look at the cable analogy, if PBS had developed their own channels with their own content, that they would have had more power in that arena and more of an ability to compete.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much.
CAROL PIERSON: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Carol Pierson is the president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Full disclosure: our producing station, WNYC, is an active participant in public radio programming on both Sirius and XM satellite radio. Coming up, an unfunny joke on the French media, Baghdad reconstruction, reality TV-style, and the Islamic sense of humor.