Saturday, September 21, 2013

NPR Going Broke?

A bargain at only $200 Million -- lots of space for fewer employees

Click here for related story [Washington Post]

Here's an interesting item.  NPR is dumping employees because it's a bit short of cash these days -- they fired 8 percent in 2011, and will fire another 10 percent this year.  It's hard to believe they've already blown through Joan Kroc's 2003 gift of $200 million

That's some serious spending, given the federal subsidy of $445 million, plus its $190 million in revenue from listener contributions, grants, plus corporate advertising.  We have to wonder about how they spend $116 Million in salaries on just 800 employees; that works out to an average of $145,000 per employee.  Not bad in today's labor market.  And, how did they blow $11 million on fundraising - given that most of their annual drives are staffed by "volunteers"?

The solution to their money management problems is to fire employees, rather than trim the fat and cut wasteful expenses and profligate spending. 

Could one problem be that they just blew $200 Million on a new office building and sumptuous offices and lavish furniture?  Add to that the mid-six figure salaries they pay their hosts, the "foreign correspondents" they pay to live large abroad, and let's not forget the $679,000 package they paid to get rid of Vivian Schiller after she fired Juan Williams because he appeared on Fox News as a guest commentator.

But, Vivian landed on her feet and moved to NBC News at a tidy increase in salary, generating a bit of turmoil there when she eliminated a popular programming division.  Then followed a new scandal which involved the digital altering of the content of the 911 call made by George Zimmerman regarding Trayvon Martin; seems NBC News edited out portions of that recording to make Zimmerman sound like a racist. Interestingly, Vivian's alternate title is "digital officer"; but, we're sure she wouldn't have had a personal role in the digital altering of the Zimmerman recording.

We recall a few years back when PBS moved its headquarters from Alexandria, Virginia to a massive [130,000 square feet] new glass structure  in Chrystal City, near Pentagon City.  This was a spend-like-crazy, spare-no- expense, ditch everything because we're buying all new stuff

I recall it vividly because I visited the newly vacated headquarters to buy high-end computer equipment at auction.  Having been a Sun Microsystems IT reseller, I was intimately familiar with their pricing, so I was stunned to see nearly new Enterprise systems worth hundreds of thousands of dollars being sold off for a few thousand dollars -- or even hundreds of dollars.  PBS seemed to have no interest whatever in recovering even a modicum of the value of their equipment since they were on a spending spree to buy everything new.  Apparently, they'd just received more government grants.

But, we digress.  Let's follow the money trail again.

One criticism of NPR has been that it gets a sizable chunk of its operating budget from federal funding -- although they claim their support comes primarily from listener donations.  But, NPR soaks its syndicated affiliates for their dues after the affiliates get 15% of their operating budgets from the federal government -- which contributes $450 million per year to those stations, PBS, and NPR.

For a while, NPR received a goodly portion of its revenue from corporate sponsors [er, "donors"] whose announcements sounded remarkably like advertisements, aka: "public interest messages".

NPR has lost many of its corporate sponsors since CEO Vivian Schiller and fund-raiser Ron Schiller were forced out due to their extremist political views [e.g., attacking Conservatives, the Tea Party, and Jews as racists, and promoting candidates and incumbents in the Democratic Party].

Orgasmic Ari

Ari Shapiro is NPR's White House correspondent, and seems almost orgasmic as he gushes praise for President Obama on every event he covers.  If there is a Republican involved in the event, we can count on Ari to use disparaging terms and ensure that Mr Obama seems so much brighter and capable than the Republican. 

There are times when we think he may replace Jay Carney as White House Press Secretary

Even after the forced departure of the Schiller team, NPR news and commentary seems to be heavily slanted to the Left -- annoying corporate donors who aren't interested in being linked with Left-Wing propagandists, particularly as President Obama's public approval polls continue to plunge.

Another embarrassing financial sinkhole is program host salaries.

Think in terms of NPR's annual fund-raising campaigns in which listeners are asked to donate
"...just $10 per month" to keep NPR on the air.

To put that in perspective, it takes about 3,000 of those $120 per year donations to pay the tab just for Steve Inskeep, Morning Edition's part-time host, at $373,552.  Extrapolating that a bit, it would take about 10,000 such donors to pay the salaries of the three co-hosts.
Think about it; 10,000 listeners donating scarce cash to pay three "not-for-profit" radio hosts to deliver news with a Left Wing slant.

The staging template these days for the "Morning Edition" seems to be "two up - one back", with two hosts, e.g., Renee Montagne and David Greene on, while Inskeep writes his memoirs. Then Greene goes on vacation for a few months, leaving Inskeep and Montagne; and finally it's Greene and Inskeep while Montagne vacations.

Other host compensation:
Renee Montagne:  $405,140
Michele Norris:      $298,360 [2009-10]
Robert Siegel:       $375,652
Scott Simon:         $364,465

Limousine Liberals understand the poor!
Pam Fessler NPR's correspondent on poverty and philanthropy, commented on the "economic divide". She expressed shock, mind you, that her restaurant dinner tab ran "uncomfortably close" to the amount a woman she interviewed received in a welfare check every two weeks. 

But, as she noted, she's always prided herself "on understanding the lives of others" -- "few of us are, or have ever been poor".  Why, her maid may even know some of these poor people -- but, she certainly wouldn't want them in her house!

If you think back, these were the commentators who were enthusiastically supporting the "Occupy Movement" condemning all those "One Percenters"; but, oddly enough, these folks did not identify themselves as "One Percenters".  They demand a world where all are equal, but, in Orwellian terms, ".... some are more equal than others."

Now, we've beaten up on NPR waste and political manipulation long enough. 

We would like to note that NPR does play a critical role in informing the public about actual news and global events of interest in an objective way. Peter Kenyon provides perhaps the most balanced reporting in the News Media of events in the Middle East. We still listen to a variety of NPR programming, and are particularly pleased that NPR is a conduit for BBC and Canadian Broadcasting which gives us world news and commentary [albeit between midnight and 5 am].   Amazingly, Bob Edwards, the very credible voice of NPR for many years -- until he was forced out, is now carried periodically -- to the delight of many of NPR's original followers.

To be clear, we used to be a donor for years -- until NPR became politicized and a conduit for DNC political spin, after which we terminated our donations. 

But, we still rely on their stringer-based apolitical reporting to keep us informed in a far more responsible and objective form than any other news service.  We hope that NPR can return to its mode of apolitical reporting -- and perhaps even to responsible management.