Amidst conservative rage against Big Bird and government funding for PBS, here is an even keeled assessment.
Perhaps Sesame Street can survive on its own on corporate television. However, some worthwhile, genuinely American creations would fail if left alone to the free market. Case study number one is jazz music.
Government has a duty to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. Simultaneously, government has a duty to preserve and promote the music and art that defines American culture for posterity. The conversation goes both ways. We have museums to attract people to study the great American music and art. We have mass media to send the music and art of America directly to American households for convenience.
Corporate radio has failed America with their elevation and promotion of manufactured commodities like Justin Bieber. Jazz music does not have a significant market share. Yet, jazz music is a quintessentially American creation that expresses hope, sadness, euphoria, peace, contemplation, joy, melancholy, love, and the whole range of human emotions through song and dance. Jazz music can make whimsical life observations and biting social commentary, sometimes all without saying a word. Jazz music is not easily understood, but once understood and appreciated, one cannot fathom a life without such music, moods, and messages. Jazz music is the bridge between classical music and popular music and it is the foundation and inspiration for many genres of music and artists.
Corporate radio has raked in tens of millions of dollars selling throwaway commodities with quick expiration dates. That is what the public wants. Corporate radio would go out of business if they promoted jazz music. Enter National Public Radio. Thanks to National Public Radio, American institutions like jazz music have been kept alive for new generations to study and enjoy.
Just because a good is not wanted by consumers does not mean it lacks value. Support jazz music. Support NPR.