Why Some Public Radio Supporters Won't Be Donating to NPR This Year
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Stearns said that despite this, Congress continues to threaten funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and “because of that, public broadcasters feel like they need to prepare, feel like they need to look elsewhere and have really ramped up their efforts to expand other opportunities for funding.”
Stearns said he wishes the United States could have publicly funded, non-commercial media — free from political and commercial pressure — because even a strict firewall has its issues.
“It may not matter to the way that things are covered, but it matters in two other ways,” Stearns said. “One: it means that we have to have a system where NPR invests in people whose only job is to go out and to sell these sponsorships and underwritings. … And also it raises the kinds of concerns that this petition seems to address, which is whether the firewall is there or not, the listeners are concerned.”
Stearns added that he grew up in Central NY where fracking is a big concern. As someone who stays on top of fracking coverage, Stearns said he believes NPR is doing some of the best reporting out there on the issue. He believes that refusing to donate to NPR may not be the best answer, saying, “While it’s tempting to want to pull support, I think we need to work on fixing the system, the public broadcasting system, while we also continue to make sure they are able to do the good reporting that they are doing.”
Dennis Higgins said he understands the financial struggle NPR faces, and doesn’t mind it accepting money from the American Natural Gas Alliance. But the plugs, he said, are still out of line.
“I think they should take money wherever they need to. But I’ve been giving them money for many years and they’re not promoting my commitment to the environment,” Higgins said. “They’re allowing the donors to give them the text that they’re supposed to read. …If they want to take money, they should take money, but just don’t plug.”
Numerous signers of Higgins’ petition agreed, with some saying that NPR should completely do away with these sponsorship acknowledgments.
Kathryn Hanratty of Ohio wrote: “It is one thing to allow advertisements — quite another to provide a forum for lies.”
Others believe eliminating the plugs is not enough, and encouraged NPR to stop taking ANGA’s money.
Emma of Pennsylvania wrote: “I find it harder and harder to trust the reports I get when part of the financial backing comes from profit-driven companies that do not have the public good at heart.”
Higgins hopes to reach his goal of 1,000 signatures on his petition before sending it to NPR’s CEO. He said he knows his action seems tangential to the main anti-fracking struggle, but it’s still part of the whole resistance.
“I know it’s not the main thrust of the fight, but I think we've got to fight it anywhere and everywhere,” he said. “If the ANGA is going to put gas on NPR, then that’s one of the places we have to fight.”
The following is NPR’s entire response to an interview request:
We maintain a very strict firewall between our sponsors and our journalism. Corporate sponsors have no input into news content, knowledge about it, or access to our newsgathering staff.
The business arrangements with NPR’s corporate sponsors are handled independently of NPR, through a subsidiary organization called National Public Media.
The underwriting credits you heard from ANGA provided general support to NPR, not to any particular program or area or coverage.
You can find more information about the firewall between our journalism and funders in our Ethics Handbook which is available on NPR.org here: http://ethics.npr.org/ or at this direct link: http://ethics.npr.org/category/e-independence/
NPR News covers our sponsors as we do any other individual or organization: with independent, objective, fair reporting. NPR News has reported critically about a sponsor’s business activities in the past and would have no hesitation to do so again.
Regarding NPR’s coverage of fracking, at last check there were over 156 stories on the subject that have aired on NPR or been posted on our website. You may already be aware of these other stories, but if not, they may add additional perspective to your views of how we cover the issue.
Additionally, we’ve recently started a journalistic collaboration with NPR Member Stations in several states that is called StateImpact. This project examines public policy issues in-depth. Our work with StateImpact Pennsylvania encompasses the energy beat, and fracking has been a big focus of that work. You can see more of that coverage and add your comments to it, here: http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/tag/fracking/