Type Public radio network
Country United States
First air date April 1971
Availability Global
Founded February 26, 1970
Slogan "This is NPR"
Endowment US$258 million
Revenue US$159 million
Net income US$18.9 million
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Broadcast area Nationwide
Owner National Public Radio, Inc.
Key people Kevin Klose, President Emeritus
Joyce Slocum, President and Chief Executive Officer (interim)
Debra Delman, Senior Vice President, Strategic Operations and Finance
Established 1970
Former names Association of Public Radio Stations
National Educational Radio Network
Official website

NPR, formerly National Public Radio,[1][2] is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States.[3] NPR was created in 1970, following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also created the Public Broadcasting Service in addition to NPR. A CPB organizing committee under John Witherspoon first created a Board of Directors chaired by Bernard Mayes. This Board then hired Donald Quayle to be the first president of NPR with studios in Washington D.C., 30 employees and 90 Public radio stations as charter members.

NPR produces and distributes news and cultural programming. Individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs that are produced. Most public radio stations broadcast a mixture of NPR programs, content from rival providers American Public Media, Public Radio International and Public Radio Exchange, and locally produced programs. NPR's flagships are two drive time news broadcasts, Morning Edition and the afternoon All Things Considered; both are carried by most NPR member stations, and from 2002–2008 they were the second and third most popular radio programs in the country.[4][5]

NPR manages the Public Radio Satellite System, which distributes NPR programs and other programming from independent producers and networks such as American Public Media and Public Radio International. Its content is also available on-demand via the web, mobile, and podcasts.



Logo used during 1970s

National Public Radio was founded on February 26, 1970.[6] It replaced the National Educational Radio Network. NPR aired its first broadcast in April 1971, covering the United States Senate hearings on the Vietnam War. Shortly thereafter, the afternoon drive-time newscast All Things Considered began, on May 3, 1971, first hosted by Robert Conley. NPR was primarily a production and distribution organization until 1977, when it merged with the Association of Public Radio Stations. As a membership organization, NPR was then charged with providing stations with training, program promotion, and management, and with representing the interests of public radio before Congress and providing content delivery mechanisms, such as satellite transmission.

NPR suffered an almost fatal setback in 1983 when efforts to expand services created a deficit of nearly US$7 million. After a Congressional investigation and the resignation of NPR's president, Frank Mankiewicz, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting agreed to lend the network money in order to stave off bankruptcy.[7] In exchange, NPR agreed to a new arrangement whereby the annual CPB stipend that it had previously received directly would be divided among local stations instead; in turn, those stations would support NPR productions on a subscription basis. NPR also agreed to turn its satellite service into a cooperative venture (the Public Radio Satellite System), making it possible for non-NPR shows to get national distribution. It took NPR approximately three years to pay off the debt.[8]

Logo used during 1990s

On December 10, 2008, NPR announced that it would reduce its workforce by 7% and cancel the news programs Day to Day and News & Notes.[9] The organization indicated this was in response to a rapid drop in corporate underwriting in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008.[9]

In the fall of 2008, NPR programming reached a record 27.5 million people weekly, according to Arbitron ratings figures. NPR stations reach 32.7 million listeners overall.[10]


NPR headquarters at 635 Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

NPR is a membership corporation. Member stations are required to be non-commercial or non-commercial 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 broadcasting philosophy or be used for classroom Distance learning 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.[11]

The original purposes of NPR, as ratified by the Board of Directors, are the following:

  • 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.[12]

As of December 2010, the Board of Directors of NPR included the following members:

NPR Member Station Managers
President of NPR
  • Joyce Slocum, Interim CEO (March 9, 2011– )
Chair of the NPR Foundation
  • Antoine W. van Agtmael; Chair, NPR Foundation; Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Emerging Markets Management, LLP
Public Members of the Board
  • Carol A. Cartwright; President, Bowling Green State University
  • Eduardo A. Hauser; Chief Executive Officer, DailyMe, Inc. Daily Me
  • John A. Herrmann, Jr.; Vice Chairman, Lincoln International
  • Lyle Logan; Senior Vice President, Personal Financial Services
  • Howard H. Stevenson; Chair of the Board, NPR; Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University

On March 6, 2008, Ken Stern left his position as CEO by mutual agreement, after having led NPR during its most lucrative decade.[citation needed] He was replaced on an interim basis by Dennis L. Haarsager.[13]


In 2010, NPR revenues totaled $180 million, with the bulk of revenues coming from programming fees, grants from foundations or business entities, contributions and sponsorships.[14] According to the 2009 financial statement, about 50% of NPR revenues come from the fees it charges member stations for programming and distribution charges.[14] Typically, NPR member stations receive funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, state and local governments, educational institutions, and the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from federal, state and local government funding, 10% of their revenue from CPB grants, and 14% of their revenue from universities.[14][15] While NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, it does receive a small number of competitive grants from CPB and federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. This funding amounts to approximately 2% of NPR’s overall revenues.[14]

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of NPR funding came from the federal government. Steps were taken during the 1980s to completely wean NPR from government support, but the 1983 funding crisis forced the network to make immediate changes. Now more money to fund the NPR network is raised from listeners, charitable foundations and corporations instead.[citation needed] According to CPB, in 2009 11.3% of the aggregate revenues of all public radio broadcasting stations were funded from federal sources, principally through CPB.[16]

Underwriting spots vs. commercials

In contrast with commercial broadcasting, NPR does not carry traditional radio 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 specific FCC restrictions in addition to the truth-in-advertising laws; they cannot advocate a product or contain any "call to action". In 2009, corporate sponsorship made up 26% of the NPR budget.[14]


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.[17][18] For context, the 2003 annual budget of NPR was US$101 million. In 2004 that number increased by over 50% to US$153 million due to the Kroc gift. US$34 million of the money was deposited in its endowment.[19] The endowment fund before the gift totaled $35 million. NPR will use the interest from the bequest to expand its news staff and reduce some member stations' fees.[17] The 2005 budget was about US$120 million.

In October 2010, NPR accepted a $1.8 million grant from the Open Society Institute. The grant is meant to begin a project called Impact of Government that is intended to add at least 100 journalists at NPR member radio stations in all 50 states over the next three years.[20] The OSI has made previous donations, but does not take on air credit for its gifts.[21]

Production facilities and listenership

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.

According to a 2003 Washington Monthly story, about 20 million listeners tune into NPR each week. The average listener is 50 years old,[22] and earns an annual income of US$78,000. As of 2006, NPR's listenership is 80% white and 20% non-white.[23] While Arbitron tracks public radio listenership, they do not include public radio in their published rankings of radio stations.

NPR stations generally do not subscribe to the Arbitron rating service, and are not included in published ratings and rankings such as Radio & Records. However, NPR station listenership is measured by Arbitron in both Diary and PPM (people meter) markets. NPR stations are frequently not included in "summary level" diary data used by most advertising agencies for media planning. Data on NPR listening can be accessed using "respondent level" diary data. Additionally, all radio stations (public and commercial) are treated equally within the PPM data sets making NPR station listenership data much more widely available to the media planning community. According to Artitron's National Broadcast Audience Estimate report for September 29, 2011,[24] NPR's signature morning news program, "Morning Edition," is the network's most popular program, drawing 12.9 million listeners a week, with its afternoon newsmagazine, "All Things Considered," a close second, with 12.2 million listeners a week. Arbitron data is also provided by Radio Research Consortium, a non-profit corporation which subscribes to the Aribtron service and distributes the data to NPR and other non-commercial stations and on its website.[25] In a Harris poll conducted in 2005, NPR was voted the most trusted news source in the U.S.[26]

Digital media

NPR has been dubbed as "leveraging the Twitter generation", because of its adaptation of the popular microblogging service as one of its primary vehicles of information. Of NPR’s Twitter followers, the majority (67%) still do listen to NPR on the radio. According to, in a survey of more than 10,000 respondents, NPR found that its Twitter (Twitter) followers are younger, more connected to the social web, and more likely to access content through digital platforms such as NPR’s website, podcasts, mobile apps and more. NPR has more than one Twitter account; its survey found that most respondents followed between two and five NPR accounts, including topical account, show-specific accounts and on-air staff accounts.[27] In addition, NPR's Facebook Page has been at the forefront of the company foray into social media. Started by college student and fan Geoff Campbell[28] in 2008, the page was quickly taken over by the organization,[29] and over the last two years has grown to over 1.4 million fans and is a popular example of the company's new focus on a younger audience.[30]


Programs produced by NPR

News and public affairs programs

NPR News logo

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.

Cultural programming

Programs distributed by NPR

News and public affairs

Cultural programs

Public radio programs not affiliated with NPR

Individual NPR stations can broadcast programming from sources that have no formal affiliation with NPR. If these programs are distributed by another distributor, a public radio station must also affiliate with that network to take that network's programming.

Many shows produced or distributed by Public Radio International—such as This American Life , Living on Earth and Whad'Ya Know?—are broadcast on public radio stations, but are not affiliated with NPR. PRI and NPR are separate production and distribution organizations with distinct missions, and each competes with the other for programming slots on public radio stations.

Public Radio Exchange also offers a national distribution network where a significant number of public radio stations go to acquire programs from independent producers. PRX provides a catalog of thousands of radio pieces available on-demand as broadcast quality audio files and available for streaming on the website.

Most public radio stations are NPR member stations and affiliate stations of PRI, APM, and PRX at the same time. The organizations have different governance structures and missions and relationships with stations. Other popular shows, like A Prairie Home Companion and Marketplace, are produced by American Public Media, the national programming unit of Minnesota Public Radio. These programs were distributed by Public Radio International prior to APM's founding. Democracy Now!, the flagship news program of the Pacifica Radio network, provides a feed to NPR stations, and other Pacifica programs can occasionally be heard on these stations as well.

Additionally, NPR member stations distribute a series of podcast-only programs, such as Planet Money, On Gambling with Mike Pesca, Groove Salad, and Youthcast, which are designed for younger audiences.


Over the course of NPR's history, controversies have arisen over several incidents and topics.

Allegations of ideological bias

NPR has been accused of displaying both liberal bias, as alleged in work such as a UCLA and University of Missouri study of Morning Edition, and conservative bias, including criticism of alleged reliance on conservative think-tanks.[31] NPR has also been accused of bias related to specific topics, including support of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and coverage of Israel. The NPR ombudsman has described how NPR's coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been simultaneously criticized as biased by both sides.[32] University of Texas journalism professor and author, Robert Jensen, has criticized NPR for its pro-war stance during coverage of Iraq war protests.[33]

Surveys and follow-up focus groups conducted by the Tarrance Group and Lake Snell Perry & Associates have indicated that, "The majority of the U.S. adult population does not believe that the news and information programming on public broadcasting is biased. The plurality of Americans indicate that there is no apparent bias one way or the other, while approximately one-in-five detect a liberal bias and approximately one-in-ten detect a conservative bias."[34]

Mumia Abu-Jamal commentaries

In 1994, NPR arranged to air commentaries by Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man convicted of murdering a police officer, on All Things Considered, but canceled them after the Fraternal Order of Police and members of the U. S. Congress objected to the airing.[35]

Juan Williams comments

On October 20, 2010, NPR terminated Senior News Analyst Juan Williams's independent contract[36] over a series of incidents culminating in remarks he made on the Fox News Channel regarding Muslims.

Ronald Schiller comments

In March, 2011 conservative political provocateur James O'Keefe sent partners Simon Templar (a nom de plume) and Shaughn Adeleye[37] to secretly record their discussion with Ronald Schiller, NPR's outgoing senior vice president for fundraising, and an associate, in which Schiller made remarks viewed as disparaging of the Tea Party and conservatives, and controversial comments regarding Palestine and funding for NPR. Schiller immediately resigned, and NPR disavowed Schiller's comments. CEO Vivian Schiller, who is not related to Ronald, later resigned over the fallout from the comments and the previous firing of Juan Williams.[38]

See also


  1. ^ National Public Radio is changing its name to NPR – Washington Post, July 8, 2010
  2. ^ National Public Radio is now just NPR. Can nothing stop this move toward abbreviations? – LA Times, Jul 12, 2010
  3. ^ "How NPR Works: NPR's Mission Statement". NPR. Archived from the original on January 17, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2007. 
  4. ^ ""Mandela: An Audio History" on NPR's All Things Considered Series". National Public Radio. April 9, 2004. "All Things Considered, NPR's daily, afternoon newsmagazine was first broadcast in 1971, and according to recent reports is the third most listened radio show in the country, attracting a weekly audience of 11.5 million people on 605 public radio stations nationwide." 
  5. ^ Listener Supported. 2005. ISBN 0275983528. "Conceived as "alternatives," Morning Edition and All Things Considered are the second and third most listened-to radio programs in the ..." 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ "GAO statement on NPR financial crisis, 1984". Public Broadcasting PolicyBase at 1984. Retrieved June 12, 2007. 
  8. ^ "History of public broadcasting in the United States". Retrieved June 12, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Carney, Steve (December 10, 2008). "National Public Radio to cut shows, personnel". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 11, 2008. 
  10. ^ "NPR reaches new audience high, NPR press release, March 24, 2009". Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ NPR Bylaws; Public Broadcasting Policy Base; January 20, 1999
  12. ^ Siemering, William (November 29, 1999). "National Public Radio Purposes". Public Broadcasting PolicyBase at Retrieved October 2, 2006. 
  13. ^ NPR Leader out After Board Clash, Washington Post, March 6, 2008
  14. ^ a b c d e "Public Radio Finances". NPR. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  15. ^ "NPR Responds". Retrieved January 14, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Table 2 Public Broadcasting Revenue by Public Television and Radio System and Source of Revenue, Fiscal Year 2008-2009". Public Broadcasting Revenue Fiscal Year 2009. Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 5 August 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "Billions and Billions Served, Hundreds of Millions Donated". New York Times. November 7, 2003. Retrieved July 28, 2008. "National Public Radio announced yesterday that it had received a bequest worth at least $200 million from the widow of the longtime chairman of the McDonald's restaurant chain. The gift is the largest in the 33-year history of NPR, the nonprofit broadcasting corporation – and about twice the size of NPR's annual operating budget. It is believed to be among the largest ever pledged to an American cultural institution." 
  18. ^ "NPR Receives a Record Bequest of More Than $200 Million" (Press release). National Public Radio. November 6, 2003. Retrieved October 2, 2006. 
  19. ^ Janssen, Mike (May 24, 2004). "Kroc gift lets NPR expand news, lower fees". Retrieved October 2, 2006. 
  20. ^ "The Situation Room". 
  21. ^ Lisa Chiu, [1], " Secret Recording Explores Relationship Between Billionaire Soros and NPR," The Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 17, 2011
  22. ^ "Profile 2007: National Public Radio Station Audiences". Mediamark. July 2007. 
  23. ^ "The Listeners of National Public Radio". September 1, 2006. Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben (March 12, 2006). "Radio Waves". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 
  26. ^ Eggerton, John (November 10, 2005). "Survey Says: Noncom News Most Trusted". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved October 2, 2006. 
  27. ^ Spiegel, Rachel. "Research: Thalido…". http://science-educat…. Retrieved April 30, 2006. 
  28. ^ Campbell, Geoff. "Mount Allison student gets Facebook ball rolling for American media organization, NPR". Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  29. ^ Campbell, Geoff. "How Andy Carvin took over NPR's Facebook Page from Student/Creator Geoff Campbell". Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  30. ^ Tenore, Mallary Jean. "Carvin: Facebook Lets NPR Empower Those Who Love Us, Listen to Those Who Don’t". Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Does Public Radio Have A Liberal Bias? The Finale!" (in English) (Radio Transcript). On The Media. WNYC. 25. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  32. ^ Listeners Hear Same Israeli-Palestinian Coverage Differently; NPR Ombudsman; June 18, 2010
  33. ^ Published Articles - 2003; University of Texas, Robert Jensen
  34. ^ Public Perceptions of Public Broadcasting; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; December, 2003
  35. ^ "Judge Dismisses Inmate's Suit Against NPR". The Washington Post. August 22, 1997. 
  36. ^ Stanglin, Doug (October 21, 2010). "Update: NPR exec says Juan Williams crossed the line before". USA Today. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  37. ^ Hagey, Keach (March 8, 2011). "NPR exec: tea party is ‘scary,’ ‘racist’". Politico. 
  38. ^ Mark Memmott (March 9, 2011). "NPR CEO Vivian Schiller resigns". NPR. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 

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