Elitism vs. populism

Former NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin never shied away from a good fight. He’s now a visiting professor in Toronto and writes quite a bit about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation vs. National Public Radio.

On his blog this week he takes on a sore subject — the allegation that public broadcasting is “elitist.” As usual, he makes few apologies.


As my friend and former CBC colleague Karl Nerenberg says, “Some think CBC may have already hurt itself by being too populist. But it has always been a tails they win, heads you lose situation for CBC TV. If they focus on quality and do not get big audiences, they’re too elitist and not worthy of public $$. If they try for bigger gross tonnage with more “pop” fare — then, the response is: who needs to pay them to do what commercial broadcasters already do! In a way, CBC can’t win.”

  • Alison

    I can’t argue with him. You folks do have a tightrope to walk. It wouldn’t be such a big a problem if ignorance wasn’t as highly valued in some segments of society.

  • Bob

    When NPR starts tracking the boneheaded comments of Joe the Plumber, dishes about Rihanna’s tattoos and does American Idol updates, I’ll quit being a member. If NPR is going to err, I hope it lands on the side of elitism.

  • Paul

    This is a false choice. To bring quality within easy access of “the masses” is not elitism, but the best kind of populism.

  • bsimon

    I like Paul’s response.

    Granted, I’ve stopped looking, but I haven’t found anything else on the radio like public radio. Why is it elitist to enjoy and value thoughtful news coverage that improves one’s knowledge & intelligence, rather than insulting it?