Monday, March 28, 2011

Public Broadcasting 101

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Recent controversy surrounding NPR has renewed calls in Congress to de-fund public broadcasting in America, particularly National Public Radio.

This is distressing for us at KAXE. Public radio is not the same as NPR. The public broadcasting system is more complicated than that.

Public broadcasting is a system. National Public Radio is a nonprofit organization that creates programming for the system. Some stations elect to buy programs from NPR, but NPR is not the public broadcasting system itself.

The public broadcasting system is made up of 900 local public radio stations and more than 300 local PBS TV stations. If Congress takes away the funding from the public broadcasting system, the money will come directly out of the budgets of local stations.

Here’s how federal funding works for KAXE:

KAXE receives about 20% of its annual revenue—or about $140,000—from federal funds. These funds come from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or CPB. They are KAXE’s third largest source of funding, after membership and underwriting.

About 1/4 of the CPB money going to every public radio station is restricted. We have to use it to buy programming that is distributed nationally and serves a national audience.  KAXE has always used its restricted money to buy programs and satellite services from NPR. We buy All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Car Talk and World Cafe. Other public radio stations (most of the other CPB-funded AMPERS stations in Minnesota, for example) choose to buy programs from other producers like PRI or American Public Media or others.

After that, we are allowed to use the other 3/4 of the money to operate KAXE. Federal money helps us pay for all of our other expenses, like operating our 100,000-watt transmitter, buying equipment and producing local programs like the Morning Show, On the River, the Phenology Show, RealGoodWords, Currents and Between You and Me.

For big stations in large cities, CPB funding is a smaller share of the budget. For small, rural stations like KAXE and rural public TV, it is a much larger share.

In our smaller market, government funding makes a crucial difference in our ability to do a good job for our community. NPR would be inconvenienced by the loss of government funding (it makes up about 2% of their budget), but entire stations—especially small, minority and rural public radio and TV stations—would be severely hurt by this same loss.

We hope you keep this in mind as you consider contacting your legislators, or as you hold discussions with your friends and family in and around our community about public broadcasting’s future.

.--Maggie Montgomery, General Manager, Northern Community Radio

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