National Public Radio (NPR) is a semi-independent, privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to public radio stations in the United States.
NPR is a membership corporation. Member stations are required to be noncommercial or educational radio stations, have at least five full-time professional employees, operate for at least 18 hours per day, and not be designed solely to further a religious philosophy or be used for classroom programming. Each member station receives one vote at the annual NPR board meetings—exercised by its designated Authorized Station Representative (A-Rep).
To oversee the day to day operations and prepare its budget, members elect a Board of Directors. This board is composed of ten A-Reps, five members of the general public, and the chair of the NPR Foundation. Terms are for three years and rotate such that some stand for election every year.
The original purposes of NPR, as ratified by the Board of Directors, are the following:
As of 2007, the Board of Directors of NPR included the following members:
NPR Member Station Managers
President of NPR
Chair of the NPR Foundation
Public Members of the Board
Provide an identifiable daily product which is consistent and reflects the highest standards of broadcast journalism.
Provide extended coverage of public events, issues and ideas, and to acquire and produce special public affairs programs.
Acquire and produce cultural programs which can be scheduled individually by stations.
Provide access to the intellectual and cultural resources of cities, universities and rural districts through a system of cooperative program development with member public radio stations.
Develop and distribute programs for specific groups (adult education, instruction, modular units for local productions) which may meet needs of individual regions or groups, but may not have general national relevance.
Establish liaison with foreign broadcasters for a program exchange service.
Produce materials specifically intended to develop the art and technical potential of radio.
Cephas Bowles; General Manager, WBGO-FM
Tim Eby; Chairman of the Board, NPR; Radio Manager, The WOSU Stations
Dave Edwards; Director/General Manager, WUWM
Rob Gordon; President & General Manager, WPLN
Dennis L. Haarsager; General Manager, KWSU/Northwest Public Radio
Scott Hanley; Director/General Manager, WDUQ
Ellen Rocco; Station Manager, North Country Public Radio
John Stark; General Manager, KNAU
JoAnn Urofsky; Vice-Chair of the Board, NPR; General Manager, WUSF Public Broadcasting
Mark Vogelzang; President and General Manager, Vermont Public Radio
Kevin Klose; President
John A Herrmann, Jr.; Chair, NPR Foundation; Managing Director, J.P. Morgan Securities, Inc.
Carol A. Cartwright; President, Kent State University
Judith Winston; Principal, Winston Withers & Associates, LLC
Howard H. Stevenson; Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University
Lyle Logan; Senior Vice President, Personal Financial Services
Eduardo A. Hauser; Chief Executive Officer, DailyMe, Inc. Governance
According to the 2005 financial statement, NPR makes just over half of its money from the fees and dues it charges member stations to receive programming, although some of this money originated at the CPB itself, in the form of pass-through grants to member stations.
Over the years, the portion of the total NPR budget that comes from government has been decreasing. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of NPR funding came from the government. Steps were being taken during the 1980s to completely wean NPR from government support, but the 1983 funding crisis forced the network to make immediate changes. More money to fund the NPR network was raised from listeners, charitable foundations and corporations, and less from the government.
In 1995, two University of Northern Colorado students started an e-mail chain letter drive to prevent Congress from reducing PBS funding.
Internet funding hoax
In contrast to commercial radio, NPR does not carry traditional commercials, but has advertising in the form of brief statements from major donors, such as Allstate, Merck, and Archer Daniels Midland. These statements are called underwriting spots, not commercials, and, unlike commercials, are governed by FCC restrictions; they cannot advocate a product or contain any "call to action." Critics of NPR have complained that describing public radio as "commercial free" is "transparently false." Since NPR is not as dependent on revenue from underwriting spots as commercial stations are on revenue from advertising, its programming decisions may be less ratings-driven.
Underwriting spots vs. commercials
On November 6, 2003, NPR was given over US$225 million from the estate of the late Joan B. Kroc, the widow of Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's Corporation. This was a record—the largest monetary gift ever to a cultural institution. NPR has dedicated the earnings from the remainder of the bequest to expanding its news staff and reducing some member stations' fees. The 2005 budget was about US$120 million.
Joan Kroc Grant
NPR's major production facilities have been based in Washington, D.C. since its creation. On November 2, 2002, a West Coast production facility, dubbed NPR West, opened in Culver City, California. NPR opened NPR West to improve its coverage of the western United States, to expand its production capabilities (shows produced there include News & Notes and Day to Day), and to create a fully functional backup production facility capable of keeping NPR on the air in the event of a catastrophe in Washington, D.C.
According to a 2003 Washington Monthly story, about 20 million listeners tune into NPR each week. On average they are 50 years old and earn an annual income of US$78,000. Its audience is predominantly white; only about 10% are either African American or Hispanic. Many of its listeners consider NPR to be at the apex of journalistic integrity. While Arbitron does track public radio listenership, they do not include public radio in their published rankings of radio stations.
From 1999 through 2004, listenership has increased by about 66%. This increase may have been the result of any of a number of factors, including audience interest in coverage of the September 11 attacks and the subsequent military actions, a general lack of interest in other terrestrial radio outlets, and an increase in NPR news and talk programming (instead of jazz or classical music). NPR attracted these new listeners at the same time that the size of the overall radio audience in the United States was decreasing rapidly as people abandoned the medium in favor of MP3 players.
In recent years, NPR has made some changes to appeal to younger listeners and to minority groups. From 2002 until 2004, Tavis Smiley hosted a show targeted towards African Americans, but left the network, claiming that the organization did not provide enough support to make his production truly successful. (Smiley returned to public radio in April 2005 with a weekly show distributed by PRI.) NPR stations have long been known for carrying classical music, but the amount of classical programming carried on NPR stations and other public radio outlets in the U.S. has been declining. Many stations have shifted toward carrying more news, while others have shifted to feature more contemporary music that attracts a younger audience.
Programs produced by NPR
NPR produces a morning and an afternoon news program, both of which also have weekend editions with different hosts. It also produces hourly news briefs around the clock. NPR formerly distributed the World Radio Network, a daily compilation of news reports from international radio news, but no longer does so.
All Things Considered, hosted by Robert Siegel, Michele Norris and Melissa Block.
- Weekend All Things Considered, hosted by Deborah Elliott
Day to Day, a collaboration with Slate news magazine; hosted by Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand originating from Los Angeles in mid-morning
Morning Edition, hosted by Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne
- Radio Expeditions (with the National Geographic Society)
Weekend Edition Saturday, hosted by Scott Simon
Weekend Edition Sunday, hosted by Liane Hansen
Talk of the Nation: public affairs call-in (host Neal Conan)
- Science Friday science issues call-in (host Ira Flatow)
News and Notes: minority issues (host Farai Chideya) News and public affairs programs
All Songs Considered, hosted by Bob Boilen
In 2000, NPR co-produced and distributed 2000X, a Hollywood Theater of the Ear production of science fiction radio plays, presented as part of NPR Playhouse
Earplay: innovative radio drama anthology (1971–1981)
Jazz Profiles (host Nancy Wilson, NPR Jazz)
NPR World of Opera: (host Lisa Simeone)
The Thistle & Shamrock: Celtic music (host Fiona Ritchie)
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: the (humorous) NPR News quiz (with Chicago Public Radio) Cultural programming
Programs distributed by NPR
On Point: public affairs call-in (host Tom Ashbrook, (WBUR)
The Diane Rehm Show: public affairs call-in (host Diane Rehm, WAMU)
Fresh Air: interviews (host Terry Gross, WHYY-FM) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the show is known for interviews with guests from literature, politics, journalism, science, music, film, and more.
Latino USA: Latino issues (host Maria Hinojosa, KUT)
Justice Talking: legal issues (host Margot Adler, University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center)
On the Media: media issues (hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, WNYC)
American RadioWorks: provider of documentaries on Morning Edition and All Things Considered (host Ray Suarez, (American Public Media))
America Abroad: international affairs programming with host Ray Suarez (distributed in the U.S. by PRI and internationally by NPR Worldwide) News and public affairs programs
Car Talk: (hosts Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi), humorous car advice (WBUR)
JazzSet (host Dee Dee Bridgewater, (WBGO)
Only A Game: sports issues (host Bill Littlefield, WBUR)
Piano Jazz (host Marian McPartland, South Carolina Educational Radio)
Says You!: word game show (WGBH)
Selected Shorts: dramatic readings (host Isaiah Sheffer, Symphony Space, WNYC)
Sunday Baroque: Baroque music (host Suzanne Bona (WSHU)
The Business: film industry news (host Claude Brodesser, KCRW)
World Cafe: (host David Dye, WXPN) Cultural programming
Individual NPR stations can broadcast programming from sources that have no formal affiliation with NPR.
Many shows produced or distributed by Public Radio International, such as This American Life , Living on Earth and Whad'Ya Know?, are broadcast by NPR member stations, although the shows are not affiliated with NPR. Other popular shows, like A Prairie Home Companion and Marketplace, are produced by American Public Media, the national programming unit of Minnesota Public Radio. The Pacifica Radio Network also provides some programming to some NPR affiliates, notably the news program Democracy Now!.
Earth & Sky: A clear voice for science, nature and people in a complex world, with hosts Deborah Byrd and Joel Block
The Sound of Young America: Interviews and comedy, host Jesse Thorn, Santa Cruz, CA.
Music from the Hearts of Space: New Age (host Stephen Hill), Sausalito, CA.
Here and Now: news, current affairs and culture (host Robin Young, WBUR)
Jazz from Lincoln Center (Wynton Marsalis, host Ed Bradley, Murray Street Productions)
The Merrow Report: education issues (host John Merrow, Learning Matters Inc.)
Forum: Call-in panel discussion show, wide-ranging national and local topics (host Michael Krasny), KQED.
Planetary Radio: space exploration radio show (host Mat Kaplan, The Planetary Society, Pasadena, CA), KUCI, WMUH, WSDL, KAWC.
Ask Dr. Science: nonsequitur science humor
The Radio Reader: Long-running program featuring readings of recently released books Public radio programs not affiliated with NPR
Many NPR affiliates offer the programs they produce as podcasts. NPR produces a series of podcast-only programs distributed by NPR, such as On Gambling with Mike Pesca, Groove Salad, and Youthcast. They are designed to appeal to a younger audience.
American Public Media
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
List of NPR personnel
List of NPR stations
Public Broadcasting Service
Public Radio International
- Science Friday science issues call-in (host Ira Flatow)
- Radio Expeditions (with the National Geographic Society)