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?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon