Mike the Mad Biologist

NPR Should Call the Conservatives’ Bluff

If you haven’t heard, a NPR executive was forced to resign after an undercover recording by the minions of James O’Keefe. I don’t see why anyone’s getting bent out of shape because said executive called the Tea Party “racist”–some of them are quite bigoted, and other are scary, gun toting people (remember, they brought weapons to townhall meetings about healthcare). But I digress. What seems to have become a talking point is this statement:

Republicans play off the belief among the general population that most of our funding comes from the government. Very little of our funding comes from the government, but they act as if all our funding comes from the government… it is very clear that in the long run we would be better off without federal funding. And the challenge right now is that if we lost it altogether, we’d have a lot of stations go dark.

I’m not sure it’s very little funding–as best as I can tell, it’s about twenty percent (roughly one quarter is direct from the government, and the rest from the goverment funding Center for Public Broadcasting). But in 2009, the entire operating budget for NPR was around $170 million. Hell, let’s be conservative by rounding up and call it an even $200 million. If we use the twenty percent figure, then in the future (adjusted for inflation), NPR will receive somewhere around $40 million from the government.

So, here’s how I think NPR should play it:

Announce that you’re going on a massive five year capital drive to raise an $800 million dollar endowment (five percent of $800 million is $40 million). Universities are able to get these sums from a much smaller giving pool. It shouldn’t be hard.

Then publicly solicit conservative groups for the endowment. Ask the Heritage Foundation to co-host a fundraiser. Hell, ask James O’Keefe to help out (he has some good video skills, or so I hear). They’re the ones who always argue that NPR shouldn’t receive any government funding. So, why don’t they step up and replace that funding?

No taxes would be involved, so it’s not TEH SOCIALISMZ!! Just the old-fashioned virtue they always preach.

Comments

  1. #1 Min
    March 10, 2011

    “Then publicly solicit conservative groups for the endowment.”

    Brilliant! ;)

  2. #2 Lynxreign
    March 10, 2011

    I’m not sure what the number is nationally, but our local station has said how much they get from the government. If I recall correctly WBUR only gets something like 4% from the government.

    According to a story on NPR’s website, NPR gets 2% from the CPB each year, but some individual stations that subscribe to NPR get more. Some of those stations get 10% of their funding from the CPB and get around 6% of their funding from other federal, state and local government sources.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/03/09/134393420/rep-cantor-schillers-resignation-doesnt-change-minds-on-npr-funding

    So at most 18% and at least 2%.

  3. #3 Juice
    March 10, 2011

    It’s like asking conservatives to donate to Planned Parenthood. They would be happy to see NPR die.

  4. #4 BCC
    March 10, 2011

    Cut the funding already. I’ll 2x my donations. That’s not an idle promise; I’ll do it.

    Also, NPR needs to get out of the habit of having to ask for money. Here’s the process:

    - Sign me up for a self-renewing membership, billed monthly or quarterly.
    - Add a ~5% auto increase each year (that I can override, but the default is +5 each year)
    - Contact me a month or two before my CC expires and ask me to update it
    - Contact me -sparingly- and nicely ask if I might be interesting in jumping up a step in my membership level. December’s probably a good time.

    I know this is easier said than done, but I really don’t think it’s that hard. The current model may appear to get bigger $/head of active contributors, but I’d wager that it suppresses the number of active contributors.

    Please, NPR and affiliates: You don’t need federal money. You can have more my money. Just make it easy, and don’t waste my time.

  5. #5 Barry
    March 10, 2011

    @bcc

    KQED, the NPR affiliate in the San Fransisco area already does what you ask, has self-renewing memberships. You sign up once, and they bill you on a recurring basis.

  6. #6 Liz
    March 11, 2011

    I love the endowment idea, and like BBC, I’d happily double my donation if it meant NPR could stop feeling like it had to keep Congressional Republicans happy.

    I should note, though, that the donations I make now are to local stations (my own and WBEZ for This American Life). I don’t regularly give to NPR national, and while I’d be glad to start if they pitched it as a way to get off federal funding, I wonder whether most local members see the distinction and would make two separate gifts. Or would it make more sense for local stations to ask for a national gift on top of membership renewals, and pass that money directly to NPR?

  7. #7 FrauTech
    March 15, 2011

    I’ll happily double my NPR donations as well, however my concern is many are blaming NPR for this. You read the commenters on PZ’s blog and they talk about how NPR “deserves” this. I hate how just b/c the news on NPR isn’t as obnoxiously biased in the other direction as Fox News is that liberals abandon it. I mean we want news that’s really news and not opinion right?

    Liz- supposedly NPR national is pretty good at fundraising and the government funding cut is expected to hurt local stations more than the national group.