Affiliates Clash With NPR Over Budget Cuts, Fundraising
April 8, 2009 at 5:22 AM (PT)
The WALL STREET JOURNAL is reporting that NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO and its member stations are warring over NPR's budget cuts, with an e-mail from SANTA MONICA COLLEGE noncommercial AAA-Talk KCRW/SANTA MONICA-LOS ANGELES GM RUTH SEYMOUR to NPR correspondent SUSAN STAMBERG reflecting increased tensions between the network and member stations.
SEYMOUR, in response to the reports that STAMBERG and "ALL THINGS CONSIDERED" co-host MELISSA BLOCK had suggested that the network hold a direct national fundraising drive, countered that "Local stations are struggling to make ends meet. While NPR has suffered major underwriting losses and reduced foundation grants, that's just as true for member stations. We have our own programs to consider, our staffs to protect and local communities to answer to." Ripping NPR for "firing journalists at the same time as it appears to be hiring more online staff," SEYMOUR added that 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 ... are dismayed by these developments."
We have our own programs to consider, our staffs to protect and local communities to answer to
"I think we must look to what happens after the economy recovers," wrote SEYMOUR. "What kind of NPR will emerge? Will it be just another online service looking for a business plan? Or -- will it remain an esteemed radio news network, the voice that millions of Americans have come to depend on and trust?"
WAMC/ALBANY President/GM ALAN CHARTOCK told the JOURNAL, "We are trying our best to stay above water here. What we can't do is have NPR asking us to make up the breach."
NPR Pres. VIVIAN SCHILLER said, "I see NPR's role as not to dominate and take over the relations local stations have with their listeners. It's to be an enabler of that relationship."