In commercial radio, you pay as you go, by listening to ads. Public radio stations ask you for money. They aren't nearly so commercial free as they used to be, "underwriting" is not very understated these days. But, the advertising is certainly less crass on public radio than it is on commercial radio and the programming quality is excellent compared to most commercial radio. Without public radio, one of the more important original news sources, National Public Radio, would be no more, and neither jazz (beyond Muzak style "smooth jazz"), or classic programming would be available on the air in Denver.
This stations need listener donations to survive and only about 1% of listeners actually join. But, if you value the media, you should contribute, at least your fair share. Just because radio listeners to public radio can't be sued for unjust enrichment in court, doesn't meant that regular listeners don't have a moral obligation to pay their fair share. Reciprocity is policy in business and in life. Paying it forward often reaps indirect rewards.
Lately, I've been spending more and more time listening to 89.3 FM, KUVO, the local public radio jazz station, which is truer to the public radio model than Colorado Public Radio which has (not necessarily unwisely) grown more commercial in its underwriting, spread to two stations (the news is AM, the music is FM), and become more professional and less community oriented. It is my driving around town station and plays a much better variety of jazz than the swing and big band oriented station I grew up with in Oxford, Ohio.
Jazz is great music. Despite, indeed perhaps because, it is America's home grown music style, it has broad appeal. It is popular in Europe, Latin America and Asia. What other radio station routinely plays music in French, Spanish and Portugese, as well as English? It is popular with African-Americans, whites, Asians-Americans, Hispanics and lots of people who don't fit neatly into census imposed categories.
It is music for adults that is kid safe. While jazz music talks about love, it is far more articulate about the subject than rock, which seems forever stuck in the teenaged dating scene, or hip hop, which is so intensely focused on sex that it ignores love in its more subtle forms. While jazz music acknowledges hard times and despair, it does not insist on constantly wallowing in misery like country music. While marches and country music call for war, jazz constantly seeks the groove of peace. Jazz is the music of every day life seen through the eyes of people who recognize that life is beautiful. It is the music of the cafe, hotel bars full of people who travel and work for a living, and martini bars full of people who've been at work who want more than a swill.
Classical music is deeply rooted in the religous tradition and brings with it the seriousness of traditional churches, where the clergy have to remind you that it is sometimes O.K. to smile. It is never interrupted by the audience. Jazz isn't inherently secular -- the gospel tradition slips in sometimes -- but its religion is personal and immediate, and the audience reacts when it is moved to do so.
Anyway, this morning I joined KUVO. I encourage you to join the public radio station you listen to most this fundraising season as well. It is your moral obligation, it is your insurance policy that a worthwhile part of our great city (or yours) remains, and it will even buy you a copule seconds of fame, if you allow your name to be read over the air.