‘Required’ station fees for web services are just a ‘proposal,’ says NPR Board chair

Plans to restructure NPR’s digital services to pubradio stations, in the works for months, have finally gotten down to specifics: what NPR will offer, what it will cost and who will pay. Based on prices that NPR has proposed — between $1,800 and $100,000 a year — some stations are now experiencing a new virtual variety of sticker shock. In round robin meetings that began in April, NPR execs have been briefing station leaders on their planned offering, a comprehensive package of technology support, training and content, but some station leaders reacted angrily after a May 12 NPR memo said all member stations would be required to pay fees for the services. Joyce McDonald, v.p. for member and program services, notified top stations execs — the so-called “authorized representatives” who speak and vote on behalf of their stations — of NPR’s plan to begin phasing-in new required digital services fees. The memo coincided with the NPR Board’s May 12-13 meetings in Washington, D.C.

Many misunderstood the message as a statement of board policy and a done deal, when McDonald intended to give station execs advance notice of proposed dues increases for next fiscal year, according to NPR. Reactions posted on the A-Reps message board prompted NPR’s top leaders to backpedal, reassuring stations that no decisions had been made.