National Public Radio (commonly referred to as NPR, NPR news radio, NPR news, or NPR
radio) is an American privately and publicly backed non-profit membership-based media
organization based in Washington, D.C. NPR produces and delivers news and cultural
programming. One main way that people tune in is through local public radio stations. However, individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs- most broadcast a blend including NPR programs, content from American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange,Public Radio International, and WNYC Studios, as well as locally produced programs. NPR News’ two leading shows are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The organization manages the Public Radio Satellite System, which distributes NPR news shows and other programming from independent producers and networks like Public Radio International and American Public Media. The various content produced by NPR is alternatively available on- demand online, as podcasts, and on mobile networks.
NPR News History
The roots of NPR go back to the initial days of American broadcasting. In February of 1970,
NPR radio replaced the National Educational Radio Network. NPR took a similar course as
many of the country’s first radio stations, emerging at colleges and universities who wanted to experiment with the then-new medium to educate as well as entertain the public.
Originally, it was founded to:
- -Provide an identifiable daily output that was consistent and emulated the highest standards of broadcast journalism.
- -Provide in-depth coverage of public events, issues, and ideas, as well as to obtain and create
- distinctive public affairs programs.
- -Acquire and produce cultural shows that could be scheduled separately by stations.
- -Provide access to the intellectual and cultural resources of cities, universities and rural areas
- through an organization of cooperative program development with member-based public radio stations.
- -Develop and distribute shows for particular groups (adult education, instruction, modular units
- for local programs) that may meet the needs of individual regions or groups, but may not have general national pertinence.
- -Establish contacts with foreign broadcasters for a program exchange service.
- -Produce materials particularly intended to develop the artistic and technical potential of radio.
- Today, NPR still strives toward these goals through its deliberate choice of funding, programming, and distribution.
NPR news radio produces and distributes a variety of news and public affairs programs,
storytelling and cultural programming, music programming, and podcasts.
Some of the most listened to NPR shows include All Things Considered, Morning Edition, TED Radio Hour, and Here and Now. There are three popular shows associated with NPR radio that were notably excluded in this brief list though: Fresh Air, Car Talk, and This American Life. The well-loved, Terry Gross hosted news and cultural interview program Fresh Air is only distributed, but not produced by NPR. Similarly, Car Talk, a humorous automotive advice show hosted by “Click and Clack the Tappert Brothers” Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi, is distributed but not produced by NPR. Then we have This American Life, which features stories of real life broken down into different parts or acts. It is arguably the one program most highly associated with NPR, which is actually not formally affiliated with NPR at all- it is produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media and distributed by Public Radio Exchange. That being said, most listeners who enjoy the shows produced and distributed by NPR also seem to have an affinity to This American Life and many programs produced or distributed by Public Radio International are therefore broadcast on public radio stations. Most public radio stations are NPR member stations and affiliate stations of PRI (Public Radio International), APM (American Public Media), and PRX (Public Radio Exchange) and as such have different missions, structures, and
relationships with stations.
NPR radio is a membership organization. This means that they are required to be non-
commercial or non-commercial educational radio stations. They also must have at least five full-time qualified employees, operated for a minimum of eighteen hours per day, and not be
created solely to advance religious philosophy or be utilized for classroom distance learning programming. Members elect a board of directors to manage the daily operations as well as prepare the budget. The general term for each board member is three years and the terms are staggered so that various board members are up for election every year.
Funding for NPR
The funding for NPR comes from various sources, it is both privately and publicly funded. The majority of revenue comes from programming fee, grants from foundations or business entities, gifts/contributions, and sponsorships. About half of the funds come from the fees NPR news charges member stations for programming and distribution charges. The NPR member stations obtain revenue through various modes including on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, state and local governments, academic institutions, and the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A small percentage (somewhere around 5%) is received from federal, state, and local government funding. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of funding for NPR came from the federal government, this wasn’t in line with their mission and quickly worked to change their revenue system to more publicly based sources. It is notable that NPR does not use traditional commercials for advertising, unlike most commercial broadcasting companies. Instead, NPR radio advertises by underwriting spots. These are brief statements from major sponsors that might include slogans, descriptions of products or services, contact information like websites, emails, and telephone numbers. Underwriting spots are different than commercials in that they must adhere to specific FCC restrictions and truth in advertising laws; they cannot support a product or “promote the goods and services” of for-profit entities.
There are approximately 30.2 million listeners who tune into NPR each week, according to 2017 NPR statistics. As reported by a 2012 News Consumption Survey, the NPR audience tends to be highly educated, with 54% of listeners being college graduates and 21% having completed some college education. NPR’s listeners are split almost exactly in half in terms of the sex of listeners: 49% male and 51% female. NPR’s audience generally earns higher incomes than average. The survey also found that the majority of listeners identify as politically Democratic: (43% Democratic, 37% Independent, and 17% Republican) and centrist (39% moderate, 36% liberal, and 21% conservative). While these tendencies exist, those who choose to listen can find some program that fits their liking. Regardless of what programs or through what means you listen, NPR is there to share its meticulous reporting and incomparable storytelling with millions of Americans every day.