Past Event

Café Society: Do Public Institutions Serve Your Interests?

The Chicago public radio station WBEZ recently announced plans to eliminate all jazz programming. The subsequent outcry from many listeners begged the question of what role the public plays in programming decisions for public institutions. A report released by the University of Chicago and funded by the Joyce Foundation earlier this spring, Mapping Cultural Participation in Chicago, found that the major cultural institutions in the area serve predominantly white, high-income audiences. This study forces us to ask how “the public” is defined when weighing the appeal and accessibility of the type of programs being selected.

Public institutions play a critical role in ensuring the public’s ability to receive a diversity of information, ideas, and culture. Ideally, this increases the sense of community, fosters democratic values, provides quality educational, cultural and informational programming, and includes the needs of marginalized populations.

How accountable are public institutions to the public? How can the public best exercise this accountability? In our profit driven society, what impact should the bottom line have on who institutions do or do not serve? How do institutions determine who their audience is?

To what extent do institutions have power to make programming choices in the first place, given the funding and political considerations that constrain them. The Public Square has always maintained that there is not just one homogeneous public out there, but many different publics. How then can we imagine working towards the common good? With so many different interests and cultures competing for limited space and airtime, can and organization please everyone?

Join us this week at Café Society how much you trust public institutions to make the best choices for us.

Suggested Readings:

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.