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Defund NPR radio? Who's funding it anyway?

(Richard Drew/AP)

Is Defund NPR! the new battle hymn for the Republican party?

Ousted NPR analyst Juan Williams, Sarah Palin, Sen. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) all have called for a stop to public funding for National Public Radio.

What would "defunding" mean for NPR?

NPR has said that less than 2 percent of its annual income comes directly from federal sources, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for Arts.

The majority of the company's income comes from local radio stations paying programming fees. So the local public radio in, say, Austin, Texas purchases "All Things Considered" and pays NPR a fee for that show. Many of the local public radio stations receive more funding from government programs than NPR does, though they vary per station.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is the largest funder for public radio stations and gets about $400 million a year from the government. About $90 million goes to radio stations.

NPR's second largest income comes from corporate sponsors who can air short advertisements on the programs, though their content and length falls under FCC guidelines because NPR is a public broadcast company.

It also receives private grants and funding from foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates, Ford and MacArthur Foundations.

A full disclosure of the company's income can be see here.

Would cutting off funding to NPR make a huge difference? Perhaps, if DeMint's planned legislation were to go through. He calls for all public television programs and radio stations to lose funding, including PBS.

Does this mean the end to Big Bird and the Sesame Street gang? What do you think?

By Melissa Bell  | October 22, 2010; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Let's see if the donations dry up. I hope so. This was an attack on Fox News (which I don't agree with most of the time) and a circuitous method in firing Juan Williams. I admire NPR and have associated myself with public television and public radion SINCE ITS INCEPTION. I am ashamed I have heard but not LISTENED to the problems with NPR over the years. Vivian Schiller should be axed. With Soros' help, that won't happen. He will continue to bolster the organization. What will happen? It already has. NPR has lost all credibility of all listeners no matter what their politics are. And to do this to Mr. Williams? Of all people.
Oh my. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face?
Shame, shame, shame.
Courtenay Cross

Posted by: cccourt | October 22, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Forget simply de-funding NPR. They should have their tax-exempt status removed; and they should have to vie for, and pay for, their broadcast licenses at the same rates as commercial organizations.

They've been very arrogant about stating "only" 2% of their funds come "indirectly" from taxpayers (via CPB). Except their entire business model is supported on the notion of donations that reduce the total tax revenue collected.

I say level the playing field - if folks still want to support them knowing their contributions aren't tax deductible, have at it. But they no longer have earned their tax-exempt status.

Posted by: BearFlagBoy | October 22, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

This poll leaves out the option that fits me:

I wasn't donating to NPR before, but now I am... Such bigoted comments have no place on NPR.

Posted by: adcpsteacher | October 22, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

This article is deliberating misleading. Local public radio stations receive funding from CPB, and in turn pay a large percentage of what they get from CPB for the programming they receive. Most of the $90 million in taxpayer provided funding the local stations receive goes straight back to NPR. And with all that merchandising, surely Big Bird and the Sesame Street gang are self-supporting and have been for years, unless perhaps someone has been cashing in at the expense of PBS. How can the Post hope to have a rational discussion of this situation if it won't even report the facts?

Posted by: LaLydia | October 22, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

This poll leaves out the option that fits me:

I wasn't donating to NPR before, but now I am... Such bigoted comments have no place on NPR.

Posted by: adcpsteacher | October 22, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, LaLydia! You've pointed out a key misunderstanding about how NPR gets its money. As I understand it, back in the early 1980s, NPR got its money directly from CPB. But the then-fledgling network was called out for financial mismanagement, and rather than withdraw funding entirely, CPB steered the funds directly to local stations, allowing them to buy the programming from whomever they wanted. As it happens, that sparked the genesis of NPR's quasi-competitors: American Public Media (formerly known as Minnesota Public Radio) and Public Radio International.

Posted by: armar | October 22, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Please tell me it isn't true!!!

Has 'personality' driven pseudo news become the norm? Where some TV or radio personality pushes their biases and preconceived notions down your throat in a pretense of 'covering' the news? And any news organizations that try to have higher standards they are attacked from all sides?

I am sickened by the changes in media coverage over the past 10 years. NPR is one of the few remaning bastions of 'neutral' news coverage, which tries to present many angles of a story fairly. I totally agree with their policies in this.

If Juan wants to be just another 'Fox' talking head, that is his choice. However, I don't think that reflects well on NPR and they should not keep him on. I followed Juan for many years on NPR and liked him. I really think he is better than this. Maybe he will realize this also, and bring the reporting up a level in his new reporting spot at Fox. That would be a welcome change on that channel.

Posted by: lisasoutrunning | October 22, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Excuse my lack of fluency on the subject but if those people object to funding of public radio and television programs then they should also object to mysterious and silent funding of political candidates and parties which a recent supreme court ruling now allows.

Posted by: glenmayne | October 22, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

So, who had to lean over and tell Palin what NPR is and, "no Sarah, they are not a part of the NRA."

Posted by: bobbarnes | October 22, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Why is the government funding NPR or PBS anyway? In order to finally get to NPR they need to defund PBS. Instead of being called National public radio or Public Broadcasting Service, they should take the 'public' and change it to 'non-profit'. So no public funds should be used for PBS. And really it's not the sixties or seventies, hundreds of stations like that aren't needed in this cable/satellite age.
Let PBS have to run commericals to cover the shortfall of taxpayer money.

Posted by: jamesd1234 | October 22, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I LIKE NPR, and am generally happy with their programming.

This stunt, however, makes me question their motives. If they actively select personalities that adhere to a strict political philosophy, and are willing to fire someone for simply appearing on Fox News, are they really the objective kind of news source that is worthy of public funding?

I don't mind if they naturally lean left, but if they are being manipulated, that's a problem.

Posted by: postfan1 | October 22, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

NPR does not equal public radio. Melissa Bell makes the distinction between local public radio stations and NPR. This is a very important distinction which most people fail to make. NPR is simply one of several national content providers for public radio programming. Other important providers of programming include Public Radio International (e.g. This American Life) and American Public Media (e.g. Prairie Home Companion.)

I have never donated to NPR, and likely never will. I do, however, donate annually to my local public radio station and will continue to do so.

Posted by: PlainLynn | October 22, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

While taking a quick look at NPR's funding, I noticed PBS was one of the $million-plus donors to NPR. It makes me believe that the term "directly" is a key part of the statement, "NPR has said that less than 2 percent of its annual income comes directly from federal sources,..." How much federal money reaches NPR indirectly? Why does this sound like the usual liberal obfuscation and evasion when they don't want you to know something?

I read that the direct and indirect taxpayer funding of NPR is about 10% of its budget. If that is true, then they won't miss removal of Federal money. They can just ask George Soros to step up his donations, and NPR can be as liberal and biased as it wants.

While Congress is at it after Jan. 1st, they should look at the $400 million of tax money going to Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That would be a great place to start the budget trimming process which the American public is demanding to bring some fiscal sanity to Washington.

Posted by: Patriotdoc | October 23, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

SOURCE:THE NEW REPUBLIC, 1986, pp. 18-22.

A bitter controversy has broken out in Washington over a column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post Magazine. Cohen reports that certain jewelry stores in Washington admit customers only through a buzzer system, and that some store owners use this system to exclude young black males on the grounds that these people are most likely to commit a robbery. Cohen defends this practice. He points out that "young black males commit an inordinate amount of urban crime, "that black potential victims as well as white ones often act on this awareness, and that under certain circumstances, "the mere recognition of race as a factor . . . is not in itself racism."

If you were a jewelry store owner, would you use your buzzer system to exclude young black males? You might take other factors into account - not just age and sex, but style of dress and time of day - but would you ever take race into consideration as well? Whatever you yourself would do, is taking race into consideration in these circumstances racist? Understandable? Both? Neither?

Suppose you were a cabdriver cruising for customers in the middle of the night. Or a woman about to get into an elevator with a stranger in a residential apartment building. How does your decision or your analysis change in these circumstances?

Here is what the I-get-nervous-when-I-see-Muslims-in-veil said

Neither black nor white store owners are in business to display the virtues of admitting people of all colors, creeds, and fashions to their stores. They are in business to make money. I would want to take precautions to prevent robbery; I would look closely at people entering the store. The race of a potential customer would be one factor among many to be considered as I girded myself against thieves.

But in Washington and almost all other major cities, blacks do patronize jewelry stores. A jeweler in Beverly Hills who closed his door to heavily bejeweled Mr. T would be foolishly closing his cash register. Unless I am a racist, race and age cannot be the sole deciding factors in calculating whom I will and will not let into my store. And I certainly would not close my door to, say, all young black men - not even to those who are casually dressed and behaving nervously. I would act cautiously in dealing with them, as I would with an antic, strangely dressed white man.

As a cabdriver I would apply the same considerations. Discrimination can be used judiciously. I would certainly exclude one class of people: those who struck me as dangerous. Nervous-looking people with bulges under their jackets would not be picked up; nor would those who looked obviously drunk or stoned. It all comes down to a subjective judgment of what dangerous people look like. This does not necessarily entail a racial judgment. Cabdrivers who don't pick up young black men as a rule are making a poorly informed decision. Racism is a lazy man's substitute for using good judgment.

Posted by: HumanSimpleton | October 23, 2010 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Juan brought nothing to NPR I couldn’t get on FOX. I am delighted my donation will not be use to pay his salary.

NPR should consider Mark Green former NYC public advocate as a superior replacement.

Posted by: pooorpeddler1 | October 23, 2010 5:10 AM | Report abuse

@Eugene_Robinson you know i used to think you were a true thinker and then you jump on the fox band wagon for juan, you had no problem with the firing of sanchez or helen thomas im sure. ive never tweeted (i tried but i guess eugene quit accepting tweets on this subject) before but you have brought me to the computer to hunt and peck my thoughts i try to use all media outlets to gather my news and i even watch morning joe and hope people show up such as yourself to balance things out because they dont give to many true liberals such as katrina vanden huevel much time so it was nice to see a moderate such as yourself on but now i see you are not much different than joe or mika or pat for that matter when its time to drink the kool-aid you break out the beer bong you must be one of those sheltered dc types that never had to deal with real life racism and bigotry in case you havent noticed the far white has turned muslims into the new n----r a word you probaaly never really had to deal with in your sheltered life. I always wondered how you could sit at the table with a blatant racist such as pat buchanan which he has no problem reinforcing on his web site. but now i see that money is your motivation on all issues (The firing of Juan williams Woo-hoo! I'm so sick of these fake Liberals, like NPR. The same 'ol fear based platitudes in mellifuous tones, are still the same 'ol fear based platitudes (Arabs, Iran, Muslims! Oh My!)). a quote from my brother

Posted by: donald44mohmed | October 23, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse


Juan Williams, now a former contract news analyst for NPR, was fired Wednesday for publicly taking a controversial position. A statement from NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said:

His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

On Thursday, however, Schiller revised her position on Williams’s termination. According to the Associated Press, Schiller told the Atlanta Press Club that it wasn’t the O’Reilly interview that led to his dismissal but the fact that he expressed his “controversial” opinions at all. Doing so, she said, is prohibited by longstanding NPR standards. The AP reports:

Schiller said Williams' firing is not a reflection of his comments (on Fox News Channel) that he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane. She said she has no problem with people taking controversial positions, but that such opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts.

If that’s true, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg might want to start looking for a new job. Over the past month, in her regular appearances on “Inside Washington,” she has: criticized a ruling of the Roberts Court as scandalous; claimed that Michelle Obama gives people “warm and fuzzy” feelings; called Bill Clinton “the most gifted politician I’ve ever seen;” and lamented that the Democratic Party is diverse enough to include moderates that want to extend all Bush tax cuts.

On last weekend’s “Inside Washington,” which aired October 17, she told us that Michelle Obama is “an incredibly graceful surrogate” for her husband who gives people “warm and fuzzy” feelings.

Posted by: russpoter | October 23, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse


Of course. And NPR is NOT doing anything.

Posted by: russpoter | October 23, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

To the Nina Totenberg question posted above: when she's making those comments is she being identified as an NPR correspondent, thus linking her jobs?

But I think the first question surrounding this should be: IS THIS REALLY SUCH A BIG DEAL?
Rick Sanchez got axed and it faded from the news almost immediately. The question of whether this is a "1st Amendment Issue" also is just silly... Multiple article (like have already made that a null point.
Schiller made a dumb move, and she should probably have to pay for it, but this is not about the entirety of NPR, as much as those who hate actual news and reporting would like it to be.

The issue of federal funding IS important but statements like "most of the $90 million in taxpayer provided funding the local stations receive goes straight back to NPR" are ill-founded and need some backup. These people seem to forget that local stations (the ones who directly receive CPB funding) get programs for a WIDE array of sources, such as PRI and APM and smaller distributors.

This is one story that needs to put into perspective... and fade away like everything else to make room for real news.

Posted by: r_sigg | October 23, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

NPR's claim of neutrality standards is a bit thin
Neutrality is when you don't take sides between Them and Them This battle is between them and us
We are at war NPR is subsidized by tax payers. How can Juan Williams thoughts be construed to be against NPR policy.
I hope not.

Posted by: ljmch | October 24, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

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