NPR’s decision to force out Vivian Schiller yesterday had more to do with appeasing the powers of Congress, who are threatening to cancel all federal funding, than anything else.
Schiller told the NYT that she was “hopeful that my departure from NPR will have the intended effect of easing the defunding pressure on public broadcasting.”
But what happens if they do.
You’d be forgiven for concluding, based on NPR’s decision and the GOP Congress’s determination to defund Big Bird, that NPR is basically a government charity. It’s not. Here’s a quick breakdown.
The national NPR that Ms. Schiller headed until today doesn’t directly receive dedicated government funds. It gets 2% of its revenue from grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — a federally funded private corporation — and agencies like the Department of Education. And it gets 36% of its revenue from member stations, which in turn get 10.1% of their revenue from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and 5.8% from local, state and federal government.
“Modest as it is — government funding is critical because it allows taxpayers to leverage a small investment into a very large one,” Ms. Schiller said at the Press Club. “It is seed money. Station managers tell me that 10% plays a critical role in generating the other 90% that makes their broadcasts possible.”
After member stations’ fees and dues, NPR’s biggest leg of support is sponsorships, which contribute 22% of its revenue.
Short version is that the stations that would suffer the most would be the rural ones — ironically often to be found in Republican states and districts — who don’t have the member population to support the station.
The one upshot of not taking any government money would be that NPR would cease having to make decisions based on whether they have offended the cultural mores of the moment — imagine Fox News firing Roger Ailes if one of his execs was caught on tape complaining about white, Liberal, media elites!
On the other hand they would likely have to depend on advertising which, as we all know too well, is what everyone in the media world is trying to figure out how not to do. In the meantime, folks like James O’Keefe get to enjoy another scalp.
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