Study finds most listeners don’t mind NPR’s embedded underwriting credits

A committee of NPR’s board voted May 8 to maintain embedded underwriting at its current level on network programs, despite concerns among station executives that the practice could harm listeners’ perceptions. Embedded underwriting credits appear within segments of NPR’s newsmagazines, rather than in the longer blocks of credits that punctuate the shows. The credits give sponsors dedicated placement alongside particular series and areas of coverage, such as business, health and technology. NPR ramped up efforts to sell embedded underwriting starting in 2011, and station leaders and programmers responded with worries that the credits were disrupting the flow of programs and giving listeners the idea that sponsors are influencing content. Late last year, NPR agreed to limit the number of adjacent spots to 11 per week and to study listeners’ reactions to the credits.

NPR to announce new voice of underwriting credits

NPR plans to unveil tomorrow the name of the on-air talent who has been chosen to voice its underwriting credits as a successor to longtime announcer Frank Tavares. “The NPR Announcer will become the voice of all NPR national funding credits for broadcast and digital content,” wrote Eric Nuzum, v.p. of programming, in a Oct. 21 memo to public radio station leaders that was obtained by Current. “We think listeners — and sponsors — will find her engaging.” Though Nuzum wasn't divulging the identity of the new announcer, he did reveal that the network has chosen a female. Listeners will begin hearing her announcements next month in NPR newscast and online credits, Nuzum wrote; she will take over voicing of all credits later.

Study evaluates strength of public radio’s “halo” for sponsors

ATLANTA — The positive associations that public radio listeners have with corporate sponsors and underwriters are as strong as ever, according to a report unveiled July 11 during the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference. Results of the 2013 NPR Underwriting Research project, presented by radio analyst Paul Jacobs, showed that the so-called “halo effect” that companies gain from public media sponsorships is unchanged since 2010, the last time researchers looked into it. A 2003 NPR study first identified the power of public radio sponsorships to influence listeners’ perceptions of the quality of the companies who pay for them. “We’re seeing absolutely no decline in how your listeners feel about you,” Jacobs said. “Despite the fact we live in a time of media fragmentation, one of the constants you have is that your audience loves you.”

“You have something that money can’t buy — your listeners trust in you so much that that trust transfers to the companies that sponsor you,” Jacobs told the audience at the PMDMC Thursday.

Arizona radio stations ask FCC for looser underwriting rules

The licensee of KJZZ and KBAQ in Phoenix has asked the FCC for temporary permission to sidestep the agency’s rules governing language in underwriting announcements in a test of whether “enhanced” sponsor messages could boost income. In a March 18 letter to the FCC, the Maricopa County Community College District proposed a three-year trial window “to conduct a limited and controlled demonstration project to test a modified loosening of the Commission’s enhanced underwriting policies.” Under the looser rules, KBAQ and KJZZ would air announcements that include:

“factually accurate information concerning interest rates available at underwriter banks, credit unions, automobile dealerships, and other local businesses”;
notification of sales and special events such as discounts and promotions; and
qualitative adjectives based on factual data, such as “certified,” “accredited,” “award-winning,” “experienced” or “long-established.”

During this experimental phase, the stations would monitor listener satisfaction and revenue resulting from the enhanced announcements. If sales rose and listeners accepted the new language without complaint, other public radio stations could adopt the looser rules as well, the college district suggested. In the letter, submitted by communications attorney Ernie Sanchez, the college district cited the need to experiment as stations grapple with cuts in state funding, declines in underwriting revenue and the possible elimination of federal support for public broadcasting. “Could public radio stations remain financially viable, even with diminished federal funding, if the guidelines were simply relaxed or — expressed another way — enhanced somewhat more than previous levels?” the letter asked.

One of the experts who appeared in Nova's "Rise of the Drones" was Abe Karem, creator of the Predator drone. Critics of the broadcast faulted Nova for not disclosing Karem's business relationsihp with Lockheed Martin, corporate sponsor of the series at the time of the broadcast. (Photo: WGBH)

Nova faulted for failing to disclose funder’s interest in drones

A recent Nova documentary about unmanned aerial drones sparked a flurry of complaints from viewers upset by what the program’s producers didn’t say about development of the technology for military and other purposes: that Lockheed Martin, series underwriter and one of the country’s largest military contractors, is a developer of drone technology.

NPR Underwriting Credit Guidelines, 2012

Retrieved from Nov. 25, 2012
Underwriting credits acknowledge organizations which fund public radio programming. Federal law mandates this identification and further allows for the non promotional description of the sponsors products and services. The following guidelines assist NPR and its underwriters in developing credit language that complies with FCC and IRS regulations for non-commercial broadcasters.NPR underwriting credits must contain:
The legal name of the underwriter, to be read immediately after the standard opening phrase, “Support for NPR comes from NPR member stations and…
Credits may also include the following:
Non-promotional, value-neutral, descriptions of organization, products and services. Names of operating divisions and subsidiaries.