James Taszarek, ‘godfather of public radio underwriting,’ dies at 73

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Taszarek

Taszarek

James “Taz” Taszarek, a consultant who worked with public radio stations to modernize their approaches to underwriting, died Feb. 25 in Scottsdale, Ariz., after living with esophageal cancer for six years. He was 73.

In 1997, Taszarek led a Public Radio International project known as the Public Radio Underwriting Partnership, a CPB-backed initiative that brought some practices from commercial radio ad sales to public radio.

“I call him the godfather of public radio underwriting,” said Doug Eichten, president of Greater Public. Eichten was v.p. of marketing and development at PRI while Taszarek was working on PRUP.

Before PRUP, Eichten said, many stations had just one staffer who took calls from companies wanting to advertise on public radio. At the time, station leaders often thought that selling underwriting conflicted with public radio’s mission, he said.

Taszarek played a “major role” in shifting thinking among stations that they could sell corporate underwriting without having to “sell your soul,” Eichten said.

“He encouraged [stations] to use modern sales techniques that had not been thought about before” in public radio, Eichten said, such as prospect development and pricing sheets that stations would now “take for granted.”

“All those things were nonexistent before Taz started teaching people,”  Eichten said.

Taszarek also had a long career in leading commercial radio stations throughout the country. At KTAR in Glendale, Ariz., where he served as vice president and general manager, he increased revenue from $300,000 to $3 million over a two-year period, the station said.

He started broadcast consulting firm TazMedia in 1996. His son, Jim Taszarek Jr., is co-founder and managing director of Market Enginuity (formerly Public Radio Partners), which outsources local underwriting sales for public radio stations.

Taszarek is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sharon (Terbrock) of Scottsdale; three children; and eight grandchildren.