NPR facing $2.6 million budget deficit

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Five months into his tenure as NPR president, Gary Knell is grappling with a looming budget shortfall, according to the Washington Post. Corporate underwriting income has fallen off sharply and fundraising for major gifts and foundation grants has been slowed by the departures of two top staffers.

The revenue shortfalls added up to a $2.6 million deficit through March, the half-way point of NPR’s fiscal year. 

In a meeting with staff this week, Knell said he wanted to avoid cutting jobs or programs. “That’s the last thing I want to do,” he told the Post‘s Paul Farhi.

But Farhi picked up word that program cancellations are being contemplated. Citing anonymous sources, he reports that “there have been internal discussions about dropping Tell Me More,” a weekday program hosted by Michel Martin that’s aimed at minority listeners [PDF].

The loss of Tell Me More would be a major setback to public radio’s long running efforts to develop more programs for minority audiences. The field has lost three series developed for African American listeners since 2009, when a $23 million budget shortfall prompted cancellation of News and Notes. Two programs launched independently by the African American Programming Consortium had short runs on minority-controlled public radio stations in 2009. Earlier this year, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, which launched with CPB backing in 2010, ended production.

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