Is National Public Radio Actually National Private Radio?

Yves here. I give Matt Bruenig credit for taking the brouhaha over Twitter labeling National Public Radio as state owned media seriously and assigning himself the controversial task of determining whether the designation was accurate.

As you will see, Bruenig had to do quite a lot of digging and is still not completely clear about either National Public Radio’s funding or its governance. Despite muddiness on both these key question, Bruenig concludes, if he had to pick, he would agree that National Public Radio is indeed a state-owned enterprise.

Separately, this is a fine and well-presented example of research….something in not enough evidence in policy circles.

By Matt Bruenig. Originally published at his website

Public broadcasting is extremely common in the world. Wikipedia’s incomplete list of public broadcasters by country lists over 300 public broadcasting outlets across nearly every country in the world, including “major broadcasters” in the United Kingdom (BBC), Australia (ABC), Canada (CBC/SRC), and the United States (PBS/NPR).

Despite the prevalence of public broadcasting in the world, various discourses that mostly seem to be rooted in anti-communism frequently use the phrase “state media” as an epithet. This “state media” label is selectively applied to public broadcasters that someone disapproves of, generally public broadcasters in foreign countries that are not aligned with the West.

I’ve always found this to be a very annoying practice. If you want to say a certain media outlet is bad, then say that it is bad. Calling it state media is not the way to do that as most state media is pretty good and some non-state media is quite bad.

Over the last few years, YouTube and Twitter have begun labeling certain accounts as “state media” in one form or another as part of some kind of effort to combat misinformation. This is a convenient label for them because, on its face at least, it provides a neutral way to flag outlets as unreliable without actually having to dig into the substance of their content. They could create a “misleading media” label and apply it equally to private and public broadcasters with a sufficient track record of bad and motivated reporting, but this would require a heavier editorial burden than they want to take on.

Using “state media” as a shortcut in this way runs into an obvious problem, which is that most state media is good. So if you label all state media as “state media,” then the label doesn’t really serve its purpose of signaling that the media account in question is disapproved of by Twitter and YouTube. To solve this problem, Twitter and YouTube only label a small fraction of state media as “state media” and these decisions basically just track the sentiments of the Western foreign policy establishment at any given time.

In this context, it was hilarious to me when Elon Musk began having Twitter label all public broadcasters as state media a short time ago, including public broadcasters in Western countries like the BBC in the UK and NPR in the US. If you are going to have a state media label, then it really should be applied to all state media. If you want instead to have a label indicating that an outlet is misleading, then have a label for that and apply that label to all kinds of misleading media. But using “state media” to mean “misleading media” and applying it in the way Twitter and YouTube have is really stupid.

Over the last week, it’s been revealed that the leadership of National Public Radio is furiously pissed at being labeled as state media. This of course makes the whole thing even funnier, but it also raises an interesting question that is rarely discussed in the political discourse, which is: what makes something public rather than private? What exactly is a state-owned enterprise and how do we distinguish it from a non-state-owned enterprise? And how do we understand enterprises with hybridized corporate structures that seem to have both public and private characteristics?

Public Subsidies

The debate around NPR’s status has so far focused primarily on the question of NPR’s revenue sources. In the article announcing that NPR is quitting Twitter, the publication emphasizes that “it receives less than 1 percent of its $300 million annual budget from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” Though it later clarifies that NPR “also receives significant programming fees from member stations, [which] receive about 13 percent of their funds from the CPB and other state and federal government sources.” Put it all together, and it looks like they are claiming that around 5 percent of their revenue comes from public subsidies.

In the context of this debate, they are downplaying these public subsidies as fairly insignificant, but in other contexts they obviously play them up as very important because they want to keep the public subsidies flowing:

These station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR’s largest source of revenue. The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations’ ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution.

Elimination of federal funding would result in fewer programs, less journalism—especially local journalism—and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities.

Whether these public subsidies are “significant” is an interesting question and it’s funny to see NPR talk out both of sides of its mouth on the question. But, under common ways of defining what is and isn’t a state-owned enterprise, it is not actually relevant to the question of whether NPR is public or private.

Many, possibly most, state-owned enterprises receive no public subsidies, meaning that they fund themselves via revenue from their customers. The United States Postal Service is perhaps the biggest and most well-known state-owned enterprise in the US and it funds its services using customer fees called postage. The Tennessee Valley Authority is another US state-owned enterprise and it funds its services using customer fees called electricity rates. In fact, there are around 2,000 public power companies in the US that work this way.

Also, some non-state-owned enterprises receive public subsidies. Private sports teams receive subsidies to build stadiums. The federal government is giving huge sums of money to chipmakers to locate factories in the US. And so on. Few if any people contend that these subsidies make the entities public or state-owned.

Corporate Governance

Typically, state ownership is defined by the way an entity is governed, not by how much public subsidy it receives. Specifically, the key questions are who is the beneficial owner of the entity (i.e. who owns the entity’s stock if it is the kind of entity that has stock) and who appoints the top management of the entity, typically its board.

NPR does not have shareholders and so the only real question is how the appointment process for corporate leadership works.

In the various defensive articles I’ve read, NPR has so far not discussed the question of how its board and CEO are selected.

As far as I can tell, the corporate governance of NPR works as follows:

    1. The over 1,000 NPR member stations elect 12 board members. These board members must be managers of an NPR member station.
    1. The 12 board members from (1) select 9 additional board members from the public. These board members must be separately confirmed by the over 1,000 NPR member stations.
    1. The board members select an NPR president and CEO who also sits on the board.
  1. The chair of the NPR Foundation also sits on the board. I am not sure how they are appointed.

When you sum it all up, basically the board has 23 members and the member stations select all but possibly one of them, with 12 of the 23 members (a slight majority) being actual managers of member stations.

Now that we know that member stations control the board, the question turns to who controls the member stations? Wikipedia has a list of the stations. NPR itself explains that:

About two-thirds of stations are licensed to, or are affiliated with, colleges or universities. The remaining third are governed by community-based boards. Some stations are operated jointly with public TV stations.

So it appears that a large majority of the voting weight for board appointments comes from radio stations at public universities and colleges. Amusingly, people don’t seem to find the phrase “state university” to be the kind of epithet “state media” is, but here we have a media entity with a corporate governance structure ultimately dominated by decision-makers at state universities.

This is certainly an unusual governance structure. It looks almost like a producer cooperative except that the members of the producer cooperative are mostly state-owned educational institutions. Nonetheless, if forced to choose, I would say that it is, as its name suggests, a public broadcaster, i.e. a state-owned enterprise. At minimum, it seems to be more SOE than not.

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  1. Lex

    I agree that this is a good way to look at the issue. I also agree that it’s hilarious how bent out of shape NPR is about the label. The classical argument about editorial independence is realistically moot because independence is valueless if it isn’t used.

    I’m out of the NPR loop because my marriage is long distance these days, but my wife is one of those people who gets the bulk of her news from listening to Morning Edition while she gets ready. Our old game was for me to provide context and additional information that NPR consistently leaves out of both domestic and international news items. As propaganda goes, I’d rank NPR as producing it via omission rather than commission in most cases.

    1. NarrativeMassagerInc

      NPR is woke Dem propaganda all the time which, combined with neoliberal financial and economic propaganda, makes for a truly nauseating stew. I really enjoy listening to Planet Money and all their other finance friendly musings while being scolded for being a privileged white guy while also being fed propaganda about how Ukraine isn’t really a nest of Banderites — all in a morning’s programming! Truly innovative stuff and worth every dime of public money.

      1. Carolinian

        In slight defense of NPR as well as PBS you have to look at who their enemies have always been. And historically that was the Republicans of the Reagan persuasion who didn’t believe in public anything. And without a doubt the public broadcasters are very mindful of who is likely to provide money during pledge drives. Judging from PBS their big pledge targets are rich people who go on Viking Cruises and like Downton Abbey–a hopelessly dull show about how nice rich people are.

        So the correct answer to the above question is that NPR and PBS are establishment owned media, Class warriors need not apply.

      2. The Vole

        >NPR is woke Dem propaganda all the time which, combined with neoliberal financial …
        You forgot, “and Royalist Bootlicking”.
        (#disclaimer: I mostly mean Anglo-flavoured of course, and I suppose this is more PBS than NPR, but I kinda lump them together)

    2. Trepanner

      You might enjoy Peter Boghossian’s limited YouTube series, All Things Reconsidered. He points out the often hilarious lacunae in their coverage. I never noticed before how NPR literally never lets its ideological opponents speak but instead tells you what they say and what to think about them.

    3. playon

      NPR lost me forever when they were active cheerleaders for the second invasion of Iraq. However one likes to categorize them, they are definitely a pro-war part of the establishment.

    4. some guy

      I will listen to Morning Edition and All Things Considered as entertaining ear candy. BBC is often ear candy as well.

      Some of NPRs other offerings can be better and denser. Some Fresh Air interviews. Some of Here and Now. Some other more specialty programs.

      And public radio stations also carry some non-NPR material. Michigan-state-relevant radio. Too bad they don’t also carry Free Speech Radio or Pacifica ( if that still exists) to balance out the NPR news.

  2. Jeremy Grimm

    Is NPR state owned media? I am curious what that designation means after reading this from another of today’s posts: “This is the kind of bipartisanship we see when those who rule, the donors who finance both parties, garner both parties’ support for what they want.” Who owns the u.s. state and thereby NPR if it is state owned media?

    1. TimH

      A more accurate description might be “State Directed Media”, which is the MSM in UK and USA. NPR and BBC certainly included.

      A good metric for an entity claiming not to be “State Directed Media” is …show us yer Sy Hersh coverage, darlin’.

    2. NoFreeWill

      Corporations or anyone rich enough to donate the massive amounts of money to win (re)election campaigns control the state. Oil, “health”care companies, defense contractors, etc.

      1. Mary Wehrheim

        Years ago at a state League of Women Voters convention, I asked the key-note speaker, who was the head honcho at PBS, why PBS never does stories or documentaries about the labor movement. He replied that the corporations would never fund it. When I saw that Charles Koch and Bank of America endorsed Ken Burns’ Vietnam series, I did not bother to watch it. Ironic, considering that a Bank of America branch near UCSB in 1970 was torched during the Vietnam war protest.

        1. Cat Burglar

          At the very beginning of NPR, they did do some labor programming. Around 1980, there was a long two-part story on the Teamsters’ presidential election and convention that was one of the best stories they ever did. And Robert Siegel did ask the Israeli Ambassador to the US point-blank if Israel had nuclear weapons (the Ambassador paused awkwardly, and said we should pay attention to Iran’s nuclear weapons program instead). But that is about it.

  3. Adam1

    LOL! Isn’t this really a “feature” vs “bug” discussion and NPR just happens to be on the wrong side of the receiving end for this feature/bug.

    In the end Ben Franklin got it right when asked what kind of government did we get (at the end of the convention).. his reply, “A republic if you can keep it”

    The “IF WE CAN KEEP IT” part is real work and those hell bent it are not letting us keep it & are doing everything they can to to make us so tired that we can’t muster the energy needed to keep it; like being able to distinguish between the truth and propaganda.

    1. Kouros

      I think that Franklin was a bit off in his answer. It is the qualification of the republic, the attributes, that are important. Is it a democratic republic, a plutocratic demagogic republic masquerading as a “democracy”? The attributes are more important.

  4. LY

    One joke I’ve heard NPR = Nice Polite Republicans.

    The main difference between public and state is the amount of direct and indirect control?

    The problem seems to be that state owned is associated with an institution that is directly owned and governed by a federal government. NPR (and PRX) are private organizations, but funded by government (Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, etc.) and private groups (insert corporation or foundation). The government involvement is at multiple levels: federal, cities, states, universities, etc. Feds do a lot of the funding, but ownership and decision making is diffuse. I’m guessing this is to provide local political cover and skin in the game. So, more than a cooperative, more like an overlapping government and NGO blob.

    The better play is to remove the stigma from state-owned. The Tennessee Valley Authority, etc. are all state owned. The hard part is stopping corruption and neoliberals from hollowing them out.

    1. Col 'Sandy' Volestrangler (ret)

      I thought it was National Pentagon Radio. Or National Petroleum Radio.

      This drive-by comment was paid for, in part by donations from Archer-Daniels-Midland.

      1. Alex Cox

        NATO Propaganda Radio. Some of our local programming is sponsored by a charitable enterprise called Crowdstrike. So it’s really a public-private, state-corporate merge… what would be the word for that?

  5. Clark Landwehr

    I remember what Public Radio used to be like. What made it great was the LOCAL programming. WBEZ in Chicago was amazing. There was Jazz Music every night from 12-5AM Mon-Fri hosted by a real DJ. Saturday night: Blues Before Sunrise with Steve Cushing. Again 5 hours. The best blues program ever. I still have 300 cassettes of that show. A Treasure. All kinds of locally produced public affairs shows. An amazing international news program at noon weekdays, covering stuff you would never hear anywhere else. I could go on. Its all gone. There is nothing left but mind-numbing NPR Duckspeak, with daily re-runs of the flagship shows. Corporate ads by the usual suspects disguised with tiny “sponsorship” fig leaf. Haven’t listened to it in years. Truly awful.

      1. jo6pac

        bush 1 put repug friend in charge of npr and then bush 2 was potus when Edwards was moved and the beginning of the end public radio The same thing happened at pbs at the same time.

        pbs the propaganda broadcasting system along with npr national petroleum or propaganda radio.

        They even got control of Pacific radio.

            1. Arizona Slim

              I miss the guy who did the economic reporting during the 1970s — they were more like skits than straight news.

              As for Cokie, she was best in her Supreme Court Repertory Theatre role.

              1. Phichibe

                Robert Krulwich. He’s been doing an off-beat show show called RadioLab. He was the best with his illustrative pieces, the ‘skits’ as you correctly dubbed them. Yeah, by the end of the 80s NPR was changing and not for the better.

        1. Val

          NPR should be enjoyed for the comically, darkly effective, affective propaganda they render at any given political moment. Their tone of voice tells me what to think and feel, and what unsanctioned thoughts I must avoid.

          Of course NPR is state media. Now let us describe, in a similar manner, the structure and membership of the state. Please donate to this pledge drive now.

          The inflection point many have noted was the thought-policing and defenestrations during the bush II catastrophe. Those results have certainly persisted and flourished broadly, but the project seems to date back, post-Mockingbird, to the Media-Telcom “modernization” Act, rushed through Congress while the nation was obsessed with who President Clinton had clearly ejaculated upon, which then facilitated the subsequent homogenized enforced narrative/constant psychological warfare environment we have enjoyed since 9/11, the ensuing wars of globalist consolidation, epic financial crimes, assorted viral freakouts, torture, surveillance et al

          1. Cat Burglar

            You noticed the voice artistry, too. It is like listening to a sermon by a bad preacher, constantly manipulating the listener. My guess is that they justify the style as conveying the newsreader’s “concern” over the reportage and “emotionally connecting” with listeners. I am particularly sick of listening to the broad, gratified aspirates. When people have to try that hard, you know they are failing.

      2. Phichibe

        I wasn’t going to chime in on this thread but you posted what I felt going back the 18 or 19 years since they forced Bob out and foisted Steve Inskeep on us. I couldn’t take Inskeep’s continuous effervescence and the portentous delivery as though he was sharing a Abraham on Mt Moriah moment with us.

        Bob Edwards was the epitome of NPR chill. As long as he had his cup of coffee and his Camel, Bob was good. His weekly talks with Red Barber got me through the early 90s. Susan Stamberg had her awful cranberry relish recipe, Cartalk ruled the electromagnetic waves, and there were cool offbeat shows from smallish NPR stations like What Do You Know? from Wisconsin Public Radio. Now it’s all gone. I’ve watched the NPR sturm und drang for the last decade and the C-suite resignations that have come and gone. NPR has tried to go the same way as the NY Times with its PC econoporn. Yes, let’s see what $1.2 million buys me in Jackson Hole.

        Anyway, just had to second your shout out to Bob. The way they treated him was shabby, he deserved better, and they shot themselves in the foot with his replacement. That qualifies as a hat trick where I come from.


    1. rookieEMT

      In the Carolina Appalachia region, I can catch some nice folk tunes like banjos and fiddles along with some quality jazz if I’m lucky. I’m tuning in at the wrong times now when I’m driving because it’s all AP press releases and Russia, Russia, Russia.

      1. GF

        Community radio has taken the place of local NPR broadcast shows, in many instances. The best one we have come across is KXCI in Tucson AZ.

        1. Arizona Slim

          I’m here in Tucson, and, for the most part, I would agree with you.

          But take a listen to KNON in Dallas, Texas and KSVR in Washington State’s Skagit Valley. They’re worthy contenders as well.

          1. tegnost

            ksqm in sequim is different and has radio theater sat and sun at 8pm.
            It’s pretty much a mixed bag of oldies in many genres…not much new music there…

      2. square coats

        For those in the Boston area (or ever passing through) WZBC 90.3 sometimes plays totally wild music I never knew existed. However it’s really a toss-up because it’s just as likely to be boring.

        I remember one Halloween late at night years and years ago turning it on while driving somewhere very dark between burbs and forest and it was playing seriously gutteral drone/noise music, absolutely perfect at the time.

        1. Jorge

          This is also the hallmark of KFJC, a Silicon Valley local station that’s been around since (I think) the 1960s. Foothill Community College (formerly Foothill Junior College) has a radio operations school. It started as a training program for standard AM radio jocks, and emulated commercial AM radio. In 1979 the students held a putsch and started playing whatever they wanted. It’s generally staffed by locals in their 30s and 40s.

          You never know what you’ll get.

  6. Jeff W

    In the original on his website Matt Bruenig actually numbers the items from one to four in sequence, rather than as all ones as it appears here, in his description of NPR’s corporate governance. (The numbering as in the original makes a bit more sense as Bruenig refers to “(1)” and it helps if only one item is labeled as “1.”)

  7. Common Good

    In Sweden we used to have a great public radio and tv. It is still state-owned to the great chagrin of the far-right party. However, I wouls like to add the question of ownership of products to the question.
    In the good old days (yes, I am old but also proud to have seem something else and better), the radio and TV had employees, including actors, producing things for the public radio and tv. Outcome: public ownership and IP. To this day things that the Swedish TV and radio produced can be seen without the public have to pay license fees or other costs.

    Nowadays when you listen to radio you hear the following at the end “this program was produced by Mr Smith Ltd or Corp for Swedish radio” meaning that money goes out to privatized producers. This means that the public ownership of the broadcasting services is just another conduit of handing our fees to private interests instead of investing in a public ownership.
    This also means that we cannot build up a common media good because the access to these private productions bought are also subject to negotiations and budgets. A lot of really popular programs are not available because the owners charge too much for continuous broadcasting rights.

    A simple and cheaper solution: build up an in-house team of producers, actors, writers etc that are employees working for the common good.

  8. rob

    I say the way to tell if NPR is state media( which it absolutely IS); is akin to “telling the tree, by it’s fruit”.
    My regional NPR stations say they get “most of their funding” from listeners…. but most of their stories, cover the collective ass3s, of the powers that be. the only stories covered “in depth” are state pushed propaganda. Over and over again.. ad nauseum. Every once in a while a good blurb , from an honest group gets through, and is short, and never followed up. But ,I’m sure that is to provide cover from critics about all the stories it won’t touch.
    The unc affiliate, has syndicated shows it chooses that are blatant propaganda. Since 9/11 and the misinformation about iraq, to sloppy reporting about EVERYTHING since…. you can only explain their incompetent journalism as deliberate. Hell, they could read naked capitalism every day and do these stories, and feelings of the commenters…. if they wanted to actually DO their jobs and TRY and produce more than just BS….. BUT THEY DON”T.
    That is the proof , it is “state media”. Not the tally of WHERE it gets most of its money from. The true tell, is “who” is served by most of their content….. it certainly isn’t “the public”

    the fact that they pretend to be where the public can get non-commercial viewpoints, is why it is so subversive. People THINK…. there already IS a public radio station… we don’t need another one…

  9. Otis B Driftwood

    One issue with public versus private funding is that it as it has shifted dramatically away from public funding in the recent decades programming would increasingly be influenced directly and indirectly by the private corporate sponsors.

    Are those elected board members subject to that influence? Are the editors they hire? Or is the fact that NPR and PBS have become so biased a reflection of our sorry political culture in general?

    All I know is Noam Chomsky used to be on public TV frequently and now he isn’t and hasn’t been for years, and we are all the worse for it.

  10. NarrativeMassagerInc

    There should be like buttons for these comments. So many good ones and I don’t like to reply to everyone and make a nuisance of myself.

    1. Arizona Slim

      But, gosh darn it, this is Naked Capitalism. Around these parts, we have to form our positive feedback into words — and post them here!

    2. some guy

      I also would prefer not having any such like or dislike buttons. It would just lead to mob dogpiles around “upvote” or “downvote”.

      Like-seekers would learn what kind of comments get the most likes and would write to get the most likes.

      I hope such buttons never appear here.

    3. square coats

      I agree with AS and sg but I also totally wish for a like button often while reading through nc comments!

  11. Lena

    It’s definitely National Propaganda Radio nowadays as mentioned above. The level of reporting is high schoolish as well. It’s painful to listen to NPR ‘reporters’ begin their interviews with “Hey there!” I’m waiting for them to follow that up with “Hi there! Ho there!” (I know it’s coming soon). They are also obsessed with “unpacking” news stories (“Hey there! Let’s unpack this story!”). I can’t listen to them anymore.

  12. Jayarra

    I listened to NPR for 30 years before I turned it off for good when they hopped on the “enhanced interrogation” train. It’s pronounced “torture”.

  13. irrational

    I loved the irony, too. Imagine the furor of the BBC. However, from a European perspective, public versus private does not seem to matter – they all toe the propaganda line.

  14. steelhead23

    This entire discussion, the power attributable to monikers, the public judgement, seem sadly silly to me. The insane fear of the words socialist and socialism has severely limited rational political discussion for decades. And this fear of being a state-owned-enterprise stinks of Reagan’s broadly adopted, “government is the problem” meme, diminishing public faith in governance of, by, and for the people, undermining democracy. A sign of the times. NarrativeMassagerInc above provides a more meaningful argument – is NPR politically biased? I would agree with NMI that it is, though my view of that bias likely differs with his. I tend to view NPR reportage as favoring mainstream Democratic Party views over all others, both left and right. I suspect that if one did the research you would find that that perspective appeals to a sufficient portion of the donor class to keep the donations flowing. The Goldilocks position for fundraising.

  15. Sue inSoCal

    Hmmm. Corporation for Public Broadcasting: A Private Corporation Funded by the American People. I find it interesting that PBS/CPB want it both ways, but clearly want to be corporate, which they are! I kept a CPB membership for Masterpiece, but the fare I am offered is extremely limited in my area. Therefore, we are sent to….Amazon. (My area is more Yellowstone oriented.) Very recently, my guess is perhaps due to the self-regulatory BBB Global Privacy Initiative, the CPB app is now taking in all of your data with no way to opt out. I called my local affiliate, whom I have yet to hear back from, but she admitted lots of members canceled due to the classic third party data sales/sharing. Sounds private!
    I stopped watching since Moyers (Hi Yves!!) and other good old shows. Pretty worthless now. Finally, those who are old enough will remember Gingrich going after public broadcasting funding like it was scourge.

    1. GF

      “Nature” last evening (The Hummingbird Effect) had a show about Costa Rica that was nearly 100% about hummingbirds and how they pollinate flowers in all parts of the country. The pollinations result in berries, nuts etc that the local wildlife depend on. We were amazed by the diversity and adaptability of these tiny flyers.

    2. carl

      I was working at a public station during the Gingrich days. Zero-out the CPB was the intention, iirc. They were surprised by the amount of support the public had for the system, though I suspect that Big Bird and Lawrence Welk reruns were more responsible for that support than documentaries or arts. But, I suspected another reason was that cooler heads on the right knew that public broadcasting was a vital pathway to influence of the PMC. Remember, Buckley was on PBS. The duopoly needed it. The question of state ownership isn’t the point to me. It is Establishment owned, just like all the rest.

      Anybody have the link for that old NC post that described the Democratic Party organization in Soviet/Marxist terms? I’d like to read that again. I think it’s very relevant to this subject.

    3. Militiades 28

      They have always been state media, though at one time they were more like the BBC. I used to send donations some years back. These days they are both more of a Democratic Party media. It’s unfortunate that most people don’t understand the history of what happens when a media is under the control of a single political party.

  16. Martin Oline

    This is not Blues Before Sunrise but is a link to a locally produced program from Kansas City called the Fish Fry. Link To Chuck Haddix’ Fish Fry. The bottom of that page has shows you can stream on the computer. It is a Friday & Saturday night show and I think the shows are updated every week. They have an archive below the four active shows where you can find and stream older shows. He does Christmas music in the Jump & Jive, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Gospel, and Cajun varieties for two weeks in December. I recorded 4 shows one year and made a custom play list that included Santa’s Secret along with other goodies. The Squirrel Nut Zippers recorded it as Santa Claus’ Been Smokin’ Reefer Santa’s Secret

  17. Susan the other

    NPR is mind control from start to finish. One of the things that annoys me to distraction is the genre of reportage that is oh-so-heartfelt, warm and loving – breathlessly so – telling us the latest developments at our dear State Department-Department of Good Will, aka USAID. What wonderful international IMF credit scheme – some monetary generosity they have recently foisted on some desperately poor country that in reality is so far gone it needs emergency economic transfusions. It is sadistic – but so admired by the vacuous little announcer that all you can hear is dissonance. I wish my radio had an immediate zap button message, “shutthefyckupyoumoron.”

    1. carl

      Yes, I should add that they talk to us like we are children. Because they think we ARE children.

  18. SkepticalScott

    Yves, your analysis is usually pristine and noteworthy, but in this posting your analysis makes up info not in the source material to bolster your point. You quote NPR as:
    “About two-thirds of stations are licensed to, or are affiliated with, colleges or universities. The remaining third are governed by community-based boards. Some stations are operated jointly with public TV stations.”
    But your very next summation sentence adds a word that is not in the NPR quote (public):
    “So it appears that a large majority of the voting weight for board appointments comes from radio stations at public universities and colleges.” Might be true, might not, but the evidence you cite doesn’t say “public” universities and colleges.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please read more carefully. This is not my post but a cross post from Matt Bruenig. I suggest you take up your issue with him. He is very active on Twitter and I would imagine tweeted his post.

  19. C. Rogersen Hart

    I grew up on and deeply loved public radio, right up until the Bush II years when the news became nearly unlistenable, as everyone seems to agree. Still I would donate occasionally on account of the excellent music programing; there really was nothing nearly as good on my dial. Well, as of this winter my local WCMU decided to cut nearly all of their music programming and replace it with inane talk shows. Never will I donate again!

  20. scott s.

    I grew up in Wisconsin, where the UW established 9XM which later morphed into WHA. This was in the progressive era where Gov “Fighting Bob” LaFollette pushed the “Wisconsin Idea”, namely that a purpose of the UW was to advance the public policy priorities of the gov’t incumbents. So that was part of the mission of WHA radio which emphasized broadcast to schools, but later also directly to the home (for rural residents). NPR I guess came into existence during the Great Society era after creation of CPB. I’m not sure how dependent local stations are on NPR-offered programming; my guess is quite a bit.

    Never listened to NPR for “news”; mostly I tuned public radio for classical music programming.

  21. A Guy in Washington DC

    The main way that NPR and PBS are state media is that back in the 1950s and 1960s they were granted licenses to radio and TV spectrum for “educational purposes”. The original goal was to develop programs that could be used by public schools for free. The licenses were given out to newly-formed nonprofits or to existing non-profits like universities and colleges.

    The original 1948-55 TV channels were Very High Frequency (VHF) and used 54-216 megahertz (MHz). Those are number 2 to 13. Those frequencies carry far, so adjoining cities like Washington and Baltimore could not use the same channel. Even Boston and NY stations could interfere in western Massachusetts.

    Since there were too few channels to satisfy demand, the US and Canada set aside the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band at 470-608 MHz for channels 16-36. These stations didn’t carry as far. So NYC and Hartford could, for example, both use channel 26. New TVs receivers were required to cover all channels. In most cities the PBS stations (the “educational” channels) are between 16 and 36. There are a few fine points to the system (virtual channels), but that’s basically the system.

    The Educational Channels’ original corporate Boards were usually made-up of civic minded citizens, often products of the New Deal and WWII. The “Board” you get to vote for when you contribute is not the Board of the corporation; it is purely advisory. The real control remains with the original, self-perpetuating Board. So you get what you would expect, Boards made up of second and third-generation, well-off liberal folks with the mandatory inclusion of like-minded minority members and now the gender crowd.

    Like all such closed selection systems, the Boards grow slowly out of touch with the users- the viewers. It is my understanding that PBS now has by far the oldest and whitest audience profile, which leads when combined with the social profile of the Board members to an obsession with the world of the past, the 1960s. Ken Burns documentaries about baseball, the Civil War and racial integration combined with soft-core, cozy British dramas with no few or no ethnic minorities. Plus adds for Viking Cruises on the Rhine. Of course the good news is that the shows are literate and designed for an educated audience that has long-since abandoned ABC, NBC and CBS for subscription pay systems. I occasionally still watch, even if the propaganda is ever-present and smugly upper class and liberal.

    The same history played out in radio. High-powered 50,000 Watt AM stations in the 1930 like KDKA in Pittsburgh. Then, when wattage was reduced, hundreds of US regional stations (with a few “Border Radio” 50,000 Watt stations left in Mexico to spread the rock-and-roll gospel). FM (frequency modulation), which came in the 1960s, has higher frequency and shorter range. Plus the FM broadcasting system had higher fidelity thus giving us the glory days of Pacifica and college radio. In the early 1980s things quieted down. For me the end came when Georgetown University gave away their very valuable FM license because the kids were broadcasting some vaguely un-Catholic opinions from their basement studios. I may hate All Things Considered passionately but when I’m out in West Virginia it is a little oasis of educated chatter.

    Now you oldsters can listen to some great, local radio stations via the internet, places like the Black gospel station in Baton Rouge. Type the call letters into Google and you can get the stream. Please contribute.

    1. Carolinian

      Good comment. One might add that all broadcast television is in a sense government owned in that they too received those licenses that used to be described as the equivalent of winning the Irish Sweepstakes.

      And I’d add that since we are mostly webheads around here we may underestimate just how important television still is. Roger Ailes believed “you are nothing if you aren’t on TV.” He had to be right about something.

      Media ownership=power and it’s hardly surprising that the powerful make sure they keep it in their grip.

  22. Militiades 28

    Why is it even in question? PBS and NPR have always been part of state media (propaganda). They have to reflect the views of government elites to survive as entities. This isn’t about right or left politics it’s about common sense and how the world works. Musk stated the obvious.

  23. Peter VE

    I lost my appetite to be a “member” of my local NPR station when they ran some ads “sponsor’s Messages” from the department of Homeland Security in August 2018.
    The local Fundraiser tried to explain that they are separate from NPR. The only way to affect NPR is by withholding money locally.

  24. square coats

    This is largely beside the point but the curmudgeon in me finds it interesting: the label twitter had been using for the news sources it dislikes (and last I checked is still using for those sources) is “state affiliated” and twitter then decided to apply a new label “government funded” to npr, bbc, voa, and others.

    “state affiliated” is so much more flexible, you can make any number plus number equal four if you want to. I think npr’s tantrum is even funnier considering some kind of alleged distinction was still being afforded to it, compared to all those twitter accounts we’re really supposed to shun.

  25. Gordon Shumway

    Lively discussion.

    NPR’s freak out over the “government funded” lable is amusing, but given the distance between the literal and rhetorical meanings of that label, it’s more understandable.

    I doubt Twitter did anything like Bruenig’s research into how much government funding NPR gets. (Who’s left to do such research?) But, if they did conclude that 5% is enough to count as “government funded”, any number of so-called private broadcasters might come close to NPRs level of government funding. Any station that serves as part of the Emergency Alert System gets some government funding. Plenty of networks that do community access programming also get government funding.

    Yet another bit of evidence of the crapification of Twitter…

  26. Jorge

    Most state-sponsored media have the same two problems:
    1) A list of red lines, and
    2) A big content hole they must fill.

    The result is that if you pitch a show or story outside the red lines, they will very often fund things that private media would not. Cooking shows, children’s shows, etc. You can find a variety of odd and interesting stuff on RT, Al Jazeera, etc. but you have to be aware of their propaganda mission.

    In the old days of the American 3-network monopsony, no executive cared about children’s programming as long as the parents didn’t complain and the shows sold cereal. “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” was a classic example of someone making a fantastic show just for himself. It’s weirdness appealed to lots of adults and kids. Then the parents started watching it and complained about its weirdness. The network took an interest, and decided it sold too well to kill, but had to be controlled. The transition from season 1’s anarchy to season 2’s cleanliness was a shock.

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