The Private Business of Public Radio

The Private Business of Public Radio

National Public Radio doesn’t generate much revenue compared to
commercial radio’s behemoth Clear Channel — NPR earning $144
million to Clear Channel’s $4 billion — but that hasn’t stopped
the nonprofit from expanding its network to over 620 stations.
Within the last five years, commercial radio’s audiences have
dwindled, while NPR’s audience has grown 10 percent to 16.4 million
listeners.

Part of NPR’s success, Patrick J. Kiger reports in Washington
Business Forward,
can be attributed to federal regulations
prohibiting advertisements on its broadcasts and popular programs
like All Things Considered and Car Talk.

Even though NPR has carved its niche in the radio market with
quirky and intelligent programming, it’s not without competition
from other public radio networks. One of those rivals is Minnesota
Public Radio — home of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home
Companion
show. A regional network of 29 stations in Minnesota,
Minnesota Public Radio evolved into a national broadcasting power
in January 2000, when it bought a Los Angeles-area public radio
station. The purchase made Minnesota Public Radio a direct
competitor of KCRW, the city’s main NPR affiliate.

Although Minnesota Public Radio airs NPR programs, and vice versa,
‘the networks are frankly in tremendous competition with each
other,’ said Ruth Seymour, general manager of KCRW in The New
York Times.
This summer, NPR sold $12 million in California
state development bonds to set up its first facility on the West
Coast. Kevin Klose, NPR president and CEO, denies the expansion was
an effort to match Minnesota Public Radio’s move to the West
Coast.
–Kate Garsombke
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