NPR Prepares for a Future Without Government Support

October 10th, 2011 at 10:00 am | 15 Comments |

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Several months ago, I wrote a piece here at FrumForum in which I stated that National Public Radio would be better off going without federal funding, because of the constant political headaches such funding entails.  I also suggested that changes in the media world, namely the rise of digital media, raises questions about old distribution and fundraising models for NPR and argues for changes in such models.  According to a recent article in Politico by Keach Hagey, it appears that NPR’s leadership is considering such possibilities.  As stated in the Hagey piece:

And for that reason, NPR executives during [former NPR CEO] Schiller’s tenure explored ways they could wean themselves from taxpayer dollars and the political distractions they bring, according to sources familiar with the discussions.  Schiller suggested such a need herself in a tweet praising the choice of Knell: “New @npr CEO Gary Knell is an experienced leader, a good man and a friend. Best shot to liberate pubradio from untenable reliance on fed $$”  Such discussions have been going on, in one way or another, for a long time.  “For years and years, people have always discussed whether there is a way that NPR could eventually be independent of government funds,” said Daniel Zwerdling, a longtime NPR reporter.

If this is true and the new leadership at NPR is preparing for a future without federal funding, I believe this is best for the future of NPR.  The time and effort spent defending the small amount of funding that NPR receives from the federal government can be better spent on other matters, such as fundraising and marketing to the private sector or foundations that would support NPR without the political hassles that congressionally appropriated funds inevitably raise.  We no longer live in a world in which the radio and television broadcast spectrums are the only way to reach the American public and there is a large market in the United States that already supports NPR and could pick up the slack.

NPR is an excellent news and entertainment source that only receives about two percent of its funding from the federal government.  Nationally, it could live without such funding.  While some local stations may suffer or even go under as a result of such loss of federal funding, perhaps that is an acceptable set of losses in order to create a new structure that has more long-term stability and freedom from political meddling.  There’s an old saying that if you take the King’s shilling, you do the King’s bidding.  Maybe NPR needs to give up that shilling, and if the Politico article is correct, that possibility is being seriously considered and prepared for.

Recent Posts by Mark R. Yzaguirre

15 Comments so far ↓

  • PracticalGirl

    If NPR goes forth without Federal funding, what will become the new scapegoat for Republicans when they’re trying to distract from their epic failure to legislate anything that moves our country forward?

    • Fart Carbuncle


      NPR is well known for its liberal bias. The fact that it receives any public funds at all to further its agenda is repulsive.

      And, we’ll wait until Jan 2013 to watch the GOP legislate its will.

  • chicago_guy

    With the right press conference, the leaders of NPR would likely discover that the moment they made that move, a lot of people who are sometime contributors or non-contributors would step up to the plate and cover the difference.

    And the tone of the message should be “these mother____s in Congress are a bunch of yahoos, and we’re done being used as their punching bag. Tell them to go ____ themselves by making a $50 NPR contribution today.”

    Take the additional new funds that would come in, and then create a new show that would focus PURELY on calling out major politicians when they state untruths as facts. Hire a great radio comedian to be the host, and take advantage of their independence of the feds to roast the low level of intelligence that’s such a key element of political life here.

    • hlsmlane

      +1 Also, should add high level of mendacity to this: “low level of intelligence that’s such a key element of political life here.”

  • sweatyb

    The deep irony being that it no longer matters whether they take federal money. It actually hasn’t mattered in decades. In the 70s and 80s, NPR received significant funding from the federal government. Now, it receives no direct funding (and the indirect funds are ~2% of it’s operating budget).

    We need look only to the sad story of the ACORN non-scandal to understand that the shrill voices will continue to call for them to stop doing whatever it is the shrill voices think they are doing until (and even after) they cease to exist.

  • Graychin

    Although NPR itself receives relatively little taxpayer funding, the non-commercial stations that carry NPR programming receive federal funding that is critical to their continued existence. Of course a lot of that money makes its way back to NPR in the form of subscription fees.

    Of course the Right would like to silence NPR. It’s one of the few places on the radio dial that the Right hasn’t already bought and paid for. And as we know, anything to the left of Rush has a strong liberal bias.

    With ad-supported media, the media company’s customer is the advertiser. The viewer/listener is just the commodity being sold.

    With non-commercial media, the customer is the viewer/listener. The difference is noticeable. On public radio, you don’t hear scamsters trying to scare you into buying gold before the imminent apocalypse.

  • BenignBot

    Excuse, ME!

    What kind of a name is “Yzaguirre”, anyway???

    It does not seem like a REAL NPR name, to me!!!

    I have been listening to NPR during the past, probably, almost 4 decades, and I have never come across anyone with a name such as ‘Yzaguirre’.

    How do you pronounce this, anyway??

    But who cares how you might pronounce it!
    When you shake hands and then wish to send an email to this guy.
    Then, the next day, how are you going to spell it?

    Even the greatest mnemonist could never spell this great name correctly on a regular basis.

  • Dragonfly

    I am glad that hard-earned tax dollars are not going to them any longer.

    I do not like tax dollars being spent on any private organization.

    Sink or swim.

    I mean, we don’t even give tax dollars to the American Red Cross, so why should we support………..

    As to whether they survive without the tax dollars – who cares – like I said, sink or swim – let the consumer decide who survives and who doesn’t – keep government and tax dollars out of business.

    • Rob_654

      I hope you express those feelings regarding all of the private companies that we are wasting money on that are doing work our military should be doing…

  • BenignBot


    Then I would need to change my schedule for my day.

    Some assholes think that NPR is some sort of left wing THING.

    But NPR is probably the most conservative radio station that we have, today. And, I very much LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!

    I always listen to:

    All Things Considered
    On Point
    Morning Edition
    Fresh Air
    This American Life
    Dildos Where The Sun Don’t Shine

    You name the program, then I will gladly listen to it.

  • BenignBot


    If there were no NPR.

    Then my life would be so very much more diminished. Truly, I just very much love ON POINT. I love the science program. I truly do very much LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, NPR.

    But here is the reason why I very much love NPR:

    We all know that when we listen to NPR, then this makes us feel good. Why do we feel good?

    Why do we feel good? The reason we feel good is just because we know that, pretty much, we are listening to the god damned truth.

  • BenignBot

    I am very glad to be able to express my great love for NPR.

    BUT ALSO, I am also glad to express my worry that NPR will change toward a more Fox News type of programming system.

    As we have seen, already, the mthrfckr has already bought out the Wall Street Journal.

    Will that god damnd Mfck buy out Frum Forum?

    So this is why, Steve Jobs told us that DEATH is the greatest thing we can hope for.
    Just because some of those god damned shits who seek to skew our world in the wrong way need killing.

    FUCK, anyone who might choose to dominate our newspapers!
    Fuck, anyone who might choose to impose their thinking on our thinking just by buying our media.

  • Rob_654

    Funny how when someone brings up taxes the Republicans always say “But those millions that are brought in don’t amount to anything”.

    But when it comes to cutting (ala NPR) suddenly we hear that “Every penny counts”…

  • Houndentenor

    npr will be better off without federal money. Sadly, there will be cost-cutting which will mostly mean closing rural stations, but not having federal money will mean not having to listen to right wingers use them as a punching bag.