March 17, 2011

the radio/CPB/NPR thing

Filed under:, , , , , , , , — cwage @ 8:59 pm

In which I comment on a news story about a pointless bill that passed the house but will never pass the senate:

The bill (HR 1076) as stated, would "prohibit Federal funding of National Public Radio and the use of Federal funds to acquire radio content". What does that actually mean? Lots of people claim that NPR doesn't actually get any money from the federal government -- so what's the point? Well, that's not exactly true. A quick rundown of the situation, as I understand it (which may be wrong. okay, it's probably wrong):

  • NPR produces content. It's not a radio station.
  • NPR is funded by a bunch of different sources, including some federal competitive grants amounting to around 2% of its budget. However:
  • It also receives a large amount of revenue from member stations (around 34%), which buy its content. Those member stations are funded by lots of things, including the CBP (around 10%), and various governments (including federal -- about 6%).
  • The CBP is funded almost entirely by the federal government (as of 2010, around $422 million)

What does this mean if the legislation would pass? (which it won't)

  • Member stations could no longer use the ~16% of their budget from the federal government to purchase NPR content (all things considered, morning edition, etc etc).
  • So, NPR would lose some portion of the 34% of their revenue which comes from member station purchases. The exact amount, I guess, boils down to how many member stations wish to continue buying the content versus finding alternative sources (local content, PRI, etc).

In conclusion, it doesn't sound like that big of a deal, really. I half-wish it would pass just so we could stop arguing about it -- the whole situation has been politicized into oblivion, and it doesn't seem like anyone would fare too badly if the bill passed. My question is: if the Republicans are supposedly so opposed to the use of government funds for this, why are they attacking NPR (a non-profit provider of content) instead of just floating legislation to take apart the CPB? The CPB is the actual source of federal funding. My guess: attacking CPB doesn't win them as many points with their base as attacking NPR.

So, there's that. Now we can move on to arguing about things that actually matter. Isn't there some war or something?

  • http://natene.ws Nate (NateNe.ws)

    Gooootcha. Thanks for the recap.

  • http://womenshealthnews.wordpress.com RachelW

    I don't fully understand the workings, but I've heard claims that defunding would cause smalltown/rural stations to shut down, and those typically have much larger percents of their budget from federal funding than a big city with a larger member base would have. I can't vouch for the accuracy of these statements. :)

    • Anonymous

      I've heard that too, and that's what I don't understand. If a rural radio station was faced with defunding from the CPB because they provide NPR content, it seems likely to me that they'd just jettison the NPR content and rely more on local content, PRI, etc.

  • amolitor

    I am a regular NPR listener, I love a lot of the shows, and I am a long-time supporter.

    That said, I am, and long have been, deeply suspicious of the public broadcasting machinery. How many damn corporate entities do they need? NPR, PRI, CPB and probably more besides. This has always smacked of people playing games to launder money and provide full employment for professional executive types.