Sutton sees pubradio’s diversity problem as a failure of leadership

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There’s “a lot of truth” in Sue Schardt’s recent speech about the lack of diversity in public radio, writes John Sutton, Maryland-based marketing consultant, on his blog. Schardt, executive director of Association for Independents in Public Radio, spoke passionately during a February NPR Board meeting, calling for the field to acknowledge its obligation to serve all of the American public, not just its core audience of highly educated, affluent, white listeners.

Sutton disagrees that public radio’s focus on growing its core audience is a bad thing, but that’s a subject for his blog on another day. He lays responsibility for the field’s lack of diversity at the feet of its leadership.

“It turns out that the predominately well-educated, upper middle class white people in charge of public radio policy, funding, and programming are very, very good at making radio for their demographic peers and no one else,” Sutton writes. The leadership talks about service to diverse audience, but has yet to deliver.

“After two decades of trying, public radio’s white leadership is incapable of diversifying the audience in any meaningful, measurable way,” Sutton writes. “Just try and find an audience report from CPB or NPR that shows a diversity initiative that yielded audience growth among minority listeners.”