What’s in a Name?

Reader Nicole first sent this link along, about National Public Radio now officially becoming NPR, à la KFC. KFC did this, ostensibly, to lose the “Fried” in their name and attract more customers. So did NPR do this to lose the “Public” — as the catch phrase “listener supported” has now transmogrified into “community supported”? Included in this post is a breakdown of where money for public radio stations comes from:

On average, public radio stations (including NPR Member stations) receive the largest percentage of their annual operating revenue (32.1%) from listener support. For FY08, the most recent data available, the average station’s revenues came from the following sources:

32.1% from listeners in the form of pledges, memberships, and other donations
21.1% from businesses via corporate underwriting
10.1% from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which is federally funded*
13.6% from licensee support (including colleges and universities)
9.6% from foundations and major gifts
5.8% from federal, state, and local governments
7.6% from all other sources.

*A note on CPB funding: There are 434 stations in 47 states and territories (including Guam and Puerto Rico) that specifically serve rural and minority communities; the latter includes numerous African-American, Native American, Latino, and multicultural licensees. In many cases, they are the sole local broadcasting service available. These stations receive significantly higher funding from CPB – in some cases, as much as two-thirds of their budgets – since many of their listeners simply don’t have the financial resources to provide support.

With the radical changes at our local stations, it would seem that the trend toward fewer individual pledges so evident at KUT in Austin, for instance, will continue. Perhaps that is why all NPR stations are now “community supported.”

This link, a Radio Ink Magazine post sent along also by Greg, would seem to indicate that all is not peachy-keen at member stations, who now are indicating that NPR is paying too much attention to digital:

[T]here is a “little bit of tension” in the initials — NPR’s affiliates, which contribute about 40 percent of its operating budget, are “still primarily in the radio business,” and some have reportedly complained that NPR is focusing on digital at the expense of radio programming.

This after NPR CEO Vivian Schiller recently opined that within 5–10 years the operation would be online — not on terrestrial radio? — which has led to obvious unease on the part of member stations. From the original Washington Post article: “Some station managers have grumbled that NPR has invested in digital operations at the expense of more and better radio programs.”

As happens in the Post, this led to a firestorm of comments, one of the most succinct being this: “NPR, you may be more than radio, but in going with the acronym you’ve lost the two important components of your name, your heritage and your mission: ‘national’ and ‘public.’ If it ain’t broke, don’t acronym it.”

And as Jim Radio points out (also an observation on RBR-TVBR), the idea that NPR should focus on radio and only on radio is misguided. As he says, a balance must be struck between on-air and on-line, but paying insufficient attention to the latter is a sure-fire way to begin the slide down the slippery slope to irrelevance. Using each to enhance the other is the way to go.

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One Response

  1. NPR affiliates WUMB-fm and WGBH-fm in Boston are also going through similar changes.

    Three years ago when WUMB changed format from folk to AAA/pop, it changed its “handle” from “Folk Radio WUMB” to “Music Mix WUMB.”

    After WGBH changed format from an eclectic programming mix to “single format” (meaning news and talk) and dropping its folk and blues music programs, it changed its handle from “New England’s Arts, Music and Culture station” to Boston’s News Station.” Cross-town rival WBUR, also a NPR affiliate, already was using that and the two top suits had it out in the media.

    With a void in NPR’s Boston music world, WUMB recently changed its handle to “Boston’s NPR Music Station.”

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