Although I find the NPR bashing tiresome, and seldom want to waste time
in pointless rhetorical exchanges, I will correct the obvious error.
NPR (National Public Radio) does NOT get government funding.
Local public radio and television stations get *some* government assistance,
through the Community Service Grant process administered by the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, a non-profit chartered by Congress and funded
by an extravagant annual appropriation of about $300 million. Since
there are over 1,000 public radio and television stations that qualify
for a CSG, you can do the math yourself to see how far that money goes.
Local public radio and TV stations take their CSG and other moneys raised
locally through membership drives, program underwriting, etc. and run
their stations as well as they can. Part of that local station expense
is the purchase of programming from such network vendors as NPR and PRI,
for public radio, and PBS, for public TV.
NPR gets most of its budget from those program fees paid by local stations;
the rest from foundations and corporate sponsors...not "the government".
The ultimate responsibility for the programs broadcast on public radio
lies with the local public radio station--they pay the fees to NPR and
PRI, which produce the programs, which listeners like and support with
their membship pledges. If listeners do not like and support the programs,
and pledges do not come it, the fees are not paid to NPR and the program
ceases to exist.
NPR and PBS will always be niche programming. Both Morning Edition and
All Things Considered, the flagship programs of NPR, reach a very small
segment of the national radio audience. The depth of reporting, the
level of discourse and the quality of journalism found in those two
programs are, in my professional opinion, far and away beyond anything
else on the domestic scene. Joe Sixpack doesn't care, doesn't listen.
The demographic we speak to best is the highly educated (more than 4
years of college) one.
If there is a "popularity contest" at some public radio stations, it
occurs in trying to compete for the largest sliver of an already small
pie-slice. It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway--being
a non-profit agency ideally reduces the purely commercial pressures on
the organization: for example, you have no stockholders to satisfy with
a certain percentage of "return on investment"; and whatever moneys your
operation generates by law must return to support the organization's
bottom line. Equally obvious is the fact that being a non-profit does
not exempt you from the basic costs of doing business--rent, utilities,
salaries and benefits, etc. And you are also not exempt from the rising
costs of those items.
The public radio news and information format does generate good listener
support, in most cases. In the case of my station, we do more classical
music than news/information, and the support is very good from the
audience. But...the number of people who listen exclusively to the
classical music programming on KUHF is considerably less than 1/4 of our
overall audience. Most KUHF listeners listen to Morning Edition and
classical music and enjoy both! and support both!
Pardon the lengthy rant. I needed to give another perspective to this
issue. I am obviously not a member of Karl's "choir"!
General Manager & C. E. O.
KUHF-FM Houston Public Radio