NPR corporate underwriting and fundraising down, cuts possible

The Washington Post | Poynter
NPR finished the first six months of its fiscal year $2.6 million in the hole, Paul Farhi reports, and its corporate underwriting, which The Post less politely calls “advertising,” is down sharply. The organization has been dipping into its endowment over three of the last four years, which new NPR chief Gary Knell tells Farhi is not sustainable:

“NPR has been withdrawing from the bank and we can’t keep doing that,” he said. “We have to be at break-even or be in a positive position on an annual basis, or I can tell you at some point we’re going to have to turn the lights off.”

Farhi says the network’s fundraising shop has been addled by some notable departures, including Jaime Porter and Joshua Friedman, who’ve both gone to different universities. And last year listenership declined by 1 percent. NPR doesn’t receive much in the way of tax dollars directly: About 2 percent of its budget. But 45 percent of NPR’s budget comes from affiliated public radio stations that buy programming from them; and those stations in turn get about 15 percent of their revenue from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is under scrutiny from some in Congress. Knell told staffers at a meeting Wednesday that he doesn’t want to make cuts to personnel or programming, though NPR’s discussed dropping “Tell Me More,” the Michel Martin-hosted show geared toward an African-American audience, Farhi reports.

Perhaps this turmoil augurs well for one of NPR’s for-profit competitors: NBC’s upcoming sitcom “Next Caller” features a character who goes from public radio to a satellite radio show called “Booty Calls With Cam Dunne.” In an email, writer Stephen Falk says the show, which features Dane Cook as a “brash alpha-male DJ” and Collette Wolfe as “his feminist co-host,” may “have fun with NPR” if the opportunity presents itself.

Related: Gary Knell defends public funding in first day as NPR CEO | NPR’s new CEO plans to ‘retell’ the radio network’s story for lawmakers | Does new NPR CEO Gary Knell deliver what member stations want?

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  • http://twitter.com/tre3x tre giles

    “the show, which features Dane Cook as a “brash alpha-male DJ” and Collette Wolfe as “his feminist co-host,” may “have fun with NPR” if the opportunity presents itself.”

    That would require watching Dane Cook perform being any “fun” @ all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcthorogood Michael C. Thorogood

    Listenership is down since NPR fired several associates that were seen at the Occupy Wall Street protests.  Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Anonymous

    Its locked in an endowment so they can only draw on 5% of it per year. And news broadcasting is expensive.

  • Anonymous

    Walter Matthau and Elaine May starred in a movie called “A New Leaf” quite a few years ago.  I won’t go into details of the plot except to say the premise was built on the experience of a profligate man who churned through his inheritance until he had nothing left.  If you read the article and not just the headline, you’ll see that it mentioned the Kroc donation, but if NPR keeps withdrawing money and not putting some back in, that’s the problem.

  • Anonymous

    Walter Matthau and Elaine May starred in a movie called “A New Leaf” quite a few years ago.  I won’t go into details of the plot except to say the premise was built on the experience of a profligate man who churned through his inheritance until he had nothing left.  If you read the article and not just the headline, you’ll see that it mentioned the Kroc donation, but if NPR keeps withdrawing money and not putting some back in, that’s the problem.

  • Anonymous

    What happened to all the McD money? 

  • http://twitter.com/HotCornerBlues Gary

    They’ll just get  George Soros to write another check.