There are many aspects of the recent blog posting An old-but-goodie piece of NPR-bashing that NPR could challenge, but I’ll limit myself to one statement, written this week: by Glen Garvin: “But the thrust of the story, I think, remains valid. NPR remains a cultish echo chamber with a tiny audience anchored in a dying medium, funded almost entirely with money extorted from taxpayers. Other than that, public radio is great.”
The fact is – not one of these assertions is true – and public radio is great. We are dismayed that an organization with the Miami Herald’s reputation would fail to check the facts. Here they are:
The NPR audience is significant and growing on all platforms. As of the latest national ratings period, Fall 2009, NPR stations reach 33.9 million Americans every week; NPR programming and newscasts alone reach 27.1 million. Our drive-time newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered stand at #3 and #4 in the nationwide radio ratings. Unlike many commercial networks, the number of NPR stations is growing, not declining, as the public has a thirst for fact-based independent journalism and high-quality arts, music and cultural programming. Since 1993 when this piece was first published, the network of stations airing NPR programming has grown from 427 to 901. Our audience via digital platforms is also growing, currently about 11 million people visit NPR.org each month.
Radio is not a dying medium, though it is a mature medium. From 1998-2008 the audience for NPR programming grew 63 percent, commercial radio grew 13 percent, nightly network news was down 19 percent and newspapers dropped by 29 percent. Radio is amazingly resilient and is actually maintaining its audience.
The statement that NPR is funded almost entirely with money “extorted from taxpayers” is outrageous and enormously disrespectful to the people who make up public radio’s largest source of funding: the 2.85 million households that voluntarily contribute to public radio stations annually. The fact is that roughly 10 percent of public radio station funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private non-profit chartered by the Congress. The largest source of station funding is contributions from listeners, followed by corporate sponsorship.
As to NPR, Inc., we have received no operating support from the federal government since 1983. About 2 percent of NPR’s annual budget comes from competitive grants from federally funded organizations. NPR, Inc’s largest sources of revenue are NPR member stations, who pay program fees and dues to NPR, and corporate sponsors.
Dana Davis Rehm
Senior vice president – Marketing, Communications & External Relations
Mailbag: NPR strikes back
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