|Type||Public radio network|
|First air date||April 1971|
|Founded||February 24, 1970
|Net income||US$18.9 million|
|Owner||National Public Radio, Inc.|
|Key people||Kevin Klose, President Emeritus
Vivian Schiller, President and Chief Executive Officer
Mitch Praver, Chief Operating Officer
Howard Stevenson, Chair of the Board of Directors
|Former names||Association of Public Radio Stations
National Educational Radio Network
|Affiliation||World Radio Network|
National Public Radio (NPR) is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to 797 public radio stations in the United States. 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 and 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. In a Harris poll conducted in 2005, NPR was voted the most trusted news source in the U.S.
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.
National Public Radio was founded on February 24, 1970. 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, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting agreed to lend the network money in order to stave off bankruptcy. 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, making it possible for non-NPR shows to get national distribution. It took NPR approximately three years to pay off the debt.
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. The organization indicated this was in response to a rapid drop in corporate underwriting in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008.
In Fall 2008, NPR programming reached a record 27.5 million people weekly, according to Arbitron ratings figures. NPR stations reach 32.7 million listeners overall. 
NPR is a membership corporation. Member stations are required to be noncommercial or 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 philosophy or be used for classroom 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.
The original purposes of NPR, as ratified by the Board of Directors, are the following:
As of May 2008, the Board of Directors of NPR included the following members:
According to the 2005 financial statement, NPR makes just over half of its money from the fees and dues it charges member stations to receive programming. Some of that money originates at the CPB itself, in the form of federal pass-through grants to member stations.. Some more of that money originates from local and state governments and government-funded universities subsidizing member stations' fees and dues to NPR. About 2% of NPR's funding comes from bidding on government grants and programs, chiefly the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the remainder comes from member station dues, foundation grants, and corporate underwriting. Typically, NPR member stations raise funds through on-air pledge drives, corporate underwriting, and grants from state governments, universities, and the CPB itself.
Over the years, the portion of the total NPR budget that comes from government funding has decreased. 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. More money to fund the NPR network was raised from listeners, charitable foundations and corporations, and less from the federal government. Major donors are listed on the NPR web site.
In contrast with commercial radio, NPR does not carry traditional 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 FCC restrictions; they cannot advocate a product or contain any "call to action". In 2005, corporate sponsorship made up 23% of the NPR budget. NPR is not as dependent on revenue from underwriting spots as commercial stations are on revenue from advertising.
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. 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. 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. The 2005 budget was about US$120 million.
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, and earns an annual income of US$78,000. As of 2006, NPR's listenership is 80% white and 20% non-white. 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. This market data is 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.
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.
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 PRX.org 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 On Gambling with Mike Pesca, Groove Salad, and Youthcast, which are designed for younger audiences.
In a December 2005 column run by NPR ombudsman and former Vice President Jeffrey Dvorkin, allegations that NPR relies heavily on conservative think-tanks were denied. In his column, Dvorkin listed the number of times NPR had cited experts from conservative and liberal think tanks in the previous year as evidence. However, according to MediaMatters, a progressive media group, the numbers he reported indicate an overwhelmingly conservative bias. His own tally showed that 63% of NPR experts from think tanks came from right-leaning organizations while only 37% came from left-leaning organizations.
A study conducted by researchers at UCLA and the University of Missouri found that while NPR is "often cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet", "[b]y our estimate, NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet. Its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post's." It did find NPR to be more liberal than the average U.S. voter of the time of the study and more conservative than the average U.S. Democrat of the time. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a progressive media watchdog group, also disputes the claim of a liberal bias.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel American media monitoring organization based in Boston, has been particularly critical of NPR. CAMERA director Andrea Levin has stated, "We consider NPR to be the most seriously biased mainstream media outlet," a statement that The Boston Globe describes as having "clearly gotten under her target's skin." NPR's then-Ombudsman, Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, said in a 2002 interview that CAMERA used selective citations and subjective definitions of what it considers pro-Palestinian bias in formulating its findings, and that he felt CAMERA's campaign was "a kind of McCarthyism, frankly, that bashes us and causes people to question our commitment to doing this story fairly. And it exacerbates the legitimate anxieties of many in the Jewish community about the survival of Israel."
A 2004 FAIR study concluded that "NPR’s guestlist shows the radio service relies on the same elite and influential sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, and falls short of reflecting the diversity of the American public."
Noam Chomsky has criticized NPR as being biased toward ideological power and the status quo. He alleges that the parameters of debate on a given topic are very consciously curtailed. He says that since the network maintains studios in ideological centers of opinion such as Washington, the network feels the necessity to carefully consider what kinds of dissenting opinion are acceptable. Thus, political pragmatism, perhaps induced by fear of offending public officials who control some of the NPR's funding (via CPB), often determines what views are suitable for broadcast, meaning that opinions critical of the structures of national-interest-based foreign policy, capitalism, and government bureaucracies (entailed by so-called "radical" or "activist" politics) usually do not make it to air.
In 2009 NPR edited Nathan Lee's review of Outrage, a documentary on closeted gay politicians who actively work against lesbian, gay, transgender and queer rights. NPR removed the names of the politicians from the review, claiming that it needed to protect the privacy of public figures. "NPR has a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so," said Dick Meyer, NPR’s executive director of Digital. However, NPR did not perform such alteration in an editorial by Linda Holmes criticizing media outlets for not acknowledging the sexuality of American Idol frontrunner Adam Lambert, whom she believed to be homosexual. NPR also did not perform such alteration in November 2008, and after the coming out of comedian Wanda Sykes, NPR speculated on-air whether Queen Latifah would also, even though the celebrity has issued no public statements about her sexuality.
Supporters contend that NPR does its job well. A study conducted in 2003 by the polling firm Knowledge Networks and the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes showed that those who get their news and information from public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) are better informed than those whose information comes from other media outlets, including cable and broadcast TV networks and the print media. In particular, 80% of Fox News viewers held at least one of three common misperceptions about the Iraq War; only 23% of NPR listeners and PBS viewers were similarly misinformed.