Apr 7, 2009

Budget cuts raise concerns for NPR stations*

The Wall Street Journal reports on a growing rift between National Public Radio and its member stations over NPR's recent decision to cut its radio programming while making investments in its online operations.

The Journal quotes an email written by KCRW General Manager Ruth Seymour, who expresses concerns that the cash-strapped NPR is veering away from its commitment to radio, and hurting member stations in the process:

The most baffling and egregious development is NPR's firing journalists at the same time as it appears to be hiring more online staff. Experienced broadcast journalists -- like John McChesney, Jacki Lydon, Kim Masters -- were let go. Since that time the network has posted at least five online jobs.

Moreover, NPR's lack of interest in producing new programs for radio is alarming. Radio is our core business and our greatest achievement. Now some of the most gifted independent producers tell me that they are bypassing NPR and distributing their programs elsewhere. This is an ominous portent for the future of our network.

Those of us who venerate broadcast journalism and believe that it is our central mission (and I count you among us) are dismayed by these developments.

Faced with a $23 million deficit, NPR recently instituted layoffs and canceled its West Coast shows "Day to Day" and "News and Notes." Member stations worry that other programs could suffer, too, which in turn could cost them when fund-raising season comes around. They also took issue with statement made at an NPR staff meeting that member station could raise funds directly for NPR. From the WSJ:
Some member stations fear NPR budget cuts might hurt the quality of marquee public radio shows "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," making it harder for local stations to raise funds during those shows, which typically bring in the lion's share of listener donations and corporate underwriting...

Currently, station fund drives raise money for the stations themselves, although some of the money goes toward dues to NPR for its programming.

*Note: I should make clear that I am a producer at KCRW (see bio in right hand column). I have no say or role in station management and learned about this story from reading the Wall Street Journal.


Anonymous said...

Same thing is happening at newspapers -- cutting regular editorial staff and hiring for the online operation.

Anonymous said...

Somehow Dean is responsible for this, too.

Anonymous said...

bad decision making? not until you get let go right gary?

Anonymous said...

good lord, crazy at 11:37, you are one obsessed guy.

pasadenapio said...

Thanks for keeping us posted.

I don't know if you've seen it, but there's an interesting video called Can Design Save Newspapers or something like that at Ted.com.

Anonymous said...

where was ruth seymour's loyalty to local npr reporters and "new npr programming" when she cut the then-new LA-based "day to day" from kcrw's roster for not making enough money during their fund drives back when the show was only a year old? what a hypocrite.

Mary said...

On today's diane rehm show based out of washington, they're using a BBC presenter as a fill in for Diane Rehm who is in Michigan. Obviously this was a planned absence for Diane. Why use a current BBC employee when there are so many recently let go NPR people who would love some freelance cash? The BBC notoriously bans Americans from being on the air. Why should US taxpaying subsidized NPR throw money at a foreign national who already has a steady paycheck?