From Coll's column in the Washington Post:
The episode matters in part because NPR's place in American journalism and society is changing. Its growing audience of 30 million listeners - attracted by the network's worldwide reporting, lengthy interviews and deep analysis - increasingly constitutes a distinctive and influential commons, comparable to the audience served by the news divisions of major broadcast networks during the 1960s and 1970s.
Altogether, the public broadcasting system - NPR; its quasi-rival on radio, American Public Media; the Public Broadcasting Service on television; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides them funding approved by Congress - reaches 98 percent of the American population. The system has achieved this penetration despite being comparatively starved of government-mandated investment. The United States spends about $1.40 per capita, or $420 million a year, on public and nonprofit media through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Britain spends about $87 per capita, according to an analysis by the advocacy and policy group Free Press. Canada, one of the most miserly industrialized democracies in this area, spends about $27 per capita.