Corporate Public Radio

How diligently can a news organization cover a business that’s a big contributor to the organization? Can NPR provide neutral coverage to a Monsanto, or, more locally, can GBH examine a company like Walmart, which just contributed $1.2 million to the station?

National Public Radio, which depends on corporate donors for almost one-third of its revenue, plans to sell $160 million in tax-exempt bonds today amid the biggest wave of such issuance since January, according to Businessweek. One third of NPR’s budget comes from corporate underwriting, which is why you hear those “non-ads” from companies such as Monsanto.

NPR will have $165.2 million of rated debt outstanding with this sale and has no further borrowing plans, Moody’s said in a March 4 research note. A mortgage lien on the new building in Washington will secure payments on the debt, Moody’s said.

A nonprofit, nongovernmental organization established in 1970, NPR provides programs to more than 900 stations in the U.S., according to its Web site.

The service gets 36 percent of its annual revenue from licensing fees paid by individual stations and 29 percent from corporate sponsors, and doesn’t raise funds from the general public, according to Moody’s. Thirteen percent of Americans age 12 and over listen to public radio, S&P said.

NPR will use $10 million in reserve funds and $58 million from the sale of current facilities for construction of the new headquarters, Moody’s said in Feb. 18 statement. NPR said it will break ground later this year and expects to finish by June 2013.

The broadcaster is planning to boost fundraising and may include a five-year call provision in the bond sale, Moody’s said.

As a comment to the previously cited Columbia Journalism Review story noted, albeit in a much narrower perspective:

NPR has serious problems with its arts coverage that both it and the CJR should look into. NPR has many sponsors that are major music, and publishing companies. See the list of sponsors.

Their influence on reviews and content is obvious. No matter what NPR says, the NPR reviews of music and books are all positive, and almost all the works reviewed come from the major art and media corporations. What is not reviewed is also obvious. It is any work of any artist that opposes corporate art, or any artist that supports any new movement of art that is not controlled by mainstream corporate art, or any art advocacy group that is against corporate art. There is also no tough fair coverage of the music or publishing industry.

The last problem of NPR’s coverage is the most damaging. NPR refuses to answer these concerns and explain how it chooses what art is covered, and why it doesn’t cover most independent artists, new art movements, or art advocacy groups. No matter what NPR claims, the truth is in their coverage and their website reviews is slanted and unfair.

Here is the list of donors from 2008: NPRSponsorsDonors08


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