In an op-ed pegged to Gary Knell’s first day on the job as president of NPR, journalist and author Barbara Cochran urges the veteran pubcasting exec to ignore those who say public radio should shield itself from political pressures by giving up federal funding.
Such a move would make a small dent in NPR’s budget — the news organization derives only 2 percent of its revenues from the congressional appropriations provided to CPB — but would do “tremendous damage” to local stations, writes Cochran, former president of the Radio and Television Digital News Association, for Huffington Post. Nearly all of the $100 million in federal funding distributed to public radio goes to 400 stations, and outlets in small markets and rural areas depend on this aid to continue operating.
“[L]ocal public radio stations are an important part of the nation’s journalism ecosystem and could play an even bigger role,” Cochran writes. “Their success is built on their partnership with NPR, especially its most popular news programs. Morning Edition and All Things Considered, which have powered NPR’s phenomenal audience growth to 30 million listeners each week, contain breaks for local station material. This has allowed local public radio stations to build a strong news identity without requiring a large staff. Now is the time to build on that strength, not undermine it.”
Cochran, a former NPR News v.p. who holds an endowed chair for the University of Missouri’s Journalism School, wrote the December 2010 Aspen Institute white paper on pubcasting’s potential to fill the gap in local news and information, Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive.