National Public Radio's problems not hurting Colorado Public Radio, says executive

Categories: Media

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Right now, National Public Radio is in turmoil, what with the resignation of CEO Vivian Schiller following anti-Tea Party comments from fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation), not to mention the crusade by the likes of Doug Lamborn to cut federal funding for public broadcasting. So has Colorado Public Radio been hurt by the fallout? Nope, says one exec. In fact, he feels things are going great.

Vice president of marketing Bob Schenkein notes that CPR hasn't exactly been inundated by comments from local listeners. As of yesterday afternoon, he says the service had received six comments about the situation -- "three positive and three negative," he says. "So it's not affecting our operations at all. And, in fact, I don't think it's affecting NPR's operations. As far as the news and programming we get from NPR, everything has been normal."

Moreover, he says the negative coverage of NPR in the media as a whole hasn't created a gloomy atmosphere among employees. "The morale of the staff is totally upbeat and positive," he feels. "We just had the most successful fund drive that we ever had -- it ended two days early -- and we're in excellent financial shape. We're hiring people, and we're getting some very significant grants from local foundations. Everything for Colorado Public Radio is very, very positive."

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Bob Schenkein.
Would the happiness index take a dip if Congress goes along with Lamborn and others to eliminate federal funding for NPR and the Public Broadcasting System? He declines to take a position about the proposal, citing NPR's ethical standard of remaining neutral on public-policy matters. But he calls it "a critical issue that will impact millions of people. In Colorado alone, there are about two million people who watch or listen to public programming each week."

Not that CPR would face a financial apocalypse should the measure pass. "We have about 33,000 active members who account for 57 percent of our revenue," he points out. "We get about 28 percent from businesses and other organizations that support us with underwriting, and we get about 9 percent from foundations." That leaves "a little over 6 percent from federal funding," which he describes as "a significant amount," but not one that would cause an immediate shutdown.

Schenkein acknowledges that "the hardest thing to tell in these situations is what the domino effect of it will be should it come to pass. But from our point of view, we feel we are in extremely good financial condition, and will continue to be in a sound position moving forward."

Regarding the specifics of the NPR mess, Schenkein declines to comment, maintaining that "there is nothing more to add to the conversation that has not already been covered in the national and local media." But that didn't stop many NPR personalities from sharing their displeasure at the comments made by fundraiser Schiller. Here's their open letter on the topic:

Dear Listeners and Supporters,

We, and our colleagues at NPR News, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR's now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect.

Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we're confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world.

With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever.

Thank you,

Robert Siegel

Michele Norris

Melissa Block

Renee Montagne

Scott Simon

Liane Hansen

Guy Raz

Michel Martin

Neal Conan

Susan Stamberg

Nina Totenberg

Linda Wertheimer

Daniel Zwerdling

John Ydstie

Richard Harris

Tom Gjelten

Howard Berkes

Mike Shuster

Laura Sullivan

Lynn Neary

Jacki Lyden

Mara Liasson

Cokie Roberts

More from our Media archive: "Colorado Public Radio: Max Wycisk is positive even though ratings outlook for bonds is negative."

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I guess Bob Scheinkein really doesn't understand how NPR funding works, does he? Otherwise, he might not be so happy.


From NPR's Audie Cornish:

"Two percent of NPR's revenue comes through competitive grants from federal agencies — in the commerce and education departments, for example. But [NPR] member station fees make up another 40 percent of revenue. And the House bill would bar stations from using any federal funds for NPR."


So, if NPR member stations cannot us CPB funds to pay NPR for programming, and CPR (as an NPR member station) has its budget reduced by the amount of CPB funds, then not only will CPR have to make up for CPB funds it loses, it will probably also have to pay higher NPR dues in order to make up for dues that other stations cannot afford to pay NPR. And, if NPR's budget is reduced drastically, doesn't it stand to reason that the quantity and quality of NPR programming could be affected; thus affecting CPR too?

In all likelihood, this Congressional measure probably will not pass. However, it would have been a more informative story if professional propagandist Bob Scheinkein had managed to mention some actual facts in his conversation with Michael Roberts. So much for the honesty, depth, breath, fairness and balance of public radio, eh? Please, public radio, don't confuse your listeners with ACTUAL FACTS!


Funniest comment I ever her about Bob Schenkein: "His idea of good public relations is putting out green doughnuts on St. Patrick's Day.


I am getting a contact high from all of the smoke Schenkein the Clown is blowing up Roberts's ass. I especially liked Bozo’s “…it’s not affecting our and NPR’s operations…” non sequitur. Then, he goes on to take about employees “feelings.” More non-information. Seriously, does any reader really believe the “3 positives and three negatives” data from a charlatan like this? As for “…we're in excellent financial shape…” that is huge overstatement. Anyone who can read a simple financial statement knows that CPR’s financial situation is far from excellent. He’s stuck on the talking point so much, that he hammers it at least twice more. Then when asked substantive questions, he declines to comment, based upon some neutrality policy. Does the “P” in “CPR” stand for propaganda?

CPR has already siphoned off loads of CPB dollars. Remember the Classical Public Radio Network? Remember HD Radio? What does CPR have to show for that? CPRN went bust, and CPR has loads of HD capacity but not content to broadcast on it. And, speaking of broadcast spectrum, CPR has AM station redundancies that it cannot sell to service its $13 MILLION DEBT. Hardly “sound financial shape.”

Sure, CPR is doing well enough (lately) to service its operating costs. It tightened its belt temporarily in order to restructure its debt payments. It hired some more fundraising talent to beg more creatively from rich donors. And, it is working in tandem with NPR* and other major member stations and networks (WBUR, WAMU, WBEZ, MPR, KPCC, KUOW, KCRW, etc.) to raise "the ask" to major donors, as if there is some vein of gold yet to be mined from the public. But, that doesn't create demand for their AM stations, it doesn't service their long-term debt, and it doesn't really address why Bozo the Vice President is so happy about NPR recent gaffs. *Viv Schiller and Ron Schiller (now both gone from NPR) were part of this public radio station, fundraising brain trust that CPR is participating in.

First, CPR has sucked just about all it can from the CPB pipe, and while their balance sheet looks like dog shit, they don't get much money from the CPB anyway. CPR, like NPR, gets a fair amount of cash from corporate underwriting; and in addition, CPR collects membership dues. Why is that? What has CPR done to earn that sort of support, besides functioning as an NPR repeater? Not much. CPR succeeds because Colorado succeeds. Most of CPR's audience growth tracks with Colorado population growth and Colorado's high number of educated residents. The reason CPR isn’t hurting as much as most other public radio media markets is because Colorado’s major cities still show relatively low levels of unemployment and high levels of education.

But what has CPR offered in the form of original programming? Colorado Spotlight, Colorado Blathers and some newscast updates. That's all. Compared to all of the other big, public radio stations and networks, CPR produces bupkis. Name the shows that CPR distributes nationally to increase its revenue. Then, think of all of the other public radio shows you know and what stations/networks produces them: This American Life, The Diane Rehm Show, Car Talk, Marketplace, A Prairie Home Companion, On the Media, Living on Earth, Whad’ya Know, LeShow, Left, Right and Center, The Conversation, etc. How is it that Colorado Public Radio managed to rack up so much debt in the process of producing so little programming? It’s because they held onto their AM stations for too long and because they paid way too much for an underpowered non-commercial FM frequency.

Second, even though CPR is a minor player among major public radio member stations and networks, it has stations and translators built out over the entire state. Thus, it can encroach upon the smaller markets it has yet to mine for member dollars – whether business underwriting or individual subscriber dollars. That is another reason CPR is so happy. Since smaller market stations receive larger amounts of CPB money (as a percentage of their total budget) than CPR does, they will likely be hurt worse by NPR actions. That NPR has potentially changed the financial landscape of public broadcasting significantly is not lost on public television stations. How ironic is that, since NPR was added (at the last minute) to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 as an afterthought? NPR could be primarily responsible for torpedoing the CPB though it relies on them to a substantially lesser extent than PBS, PBS stations, and the smaller NPR operations. No wonder CPR is so ecstatic, now it can poach weaker public radio stations throughout Colorado. In sum, NPR actions might indirectly increase CPR market share – same pie, but fewer large slices.

So, just like America’s too-big-to-fail banks, CPR’s strategy will be to “grow” out of their monstrous debt hole. That is why they are hiring more staff; because they really have no choice. They will suck off the best resources from ailing public radio stations, and maybe they will even score some major station or NPR notable to add to their stable of news people. They will grab frequencies, stations and infrastructure by begging, borrowing, or stealing (public broadcasting calls it “partnering”). Finally, they will cuts costs, combine resources, automate further, perform more audience research, probably drop classical music, and continue down the path to reduced media diversity, conservative business behavior, and predictable broadcasting sound. And isn’t that why NPR got punked, first by Juan Williams and second by James O’Keefe? In its attempt to shed historically liberal bona fides NPR now shouts with vigor “WE ARE MAINSTREAM!” In the words of Ira Glass, “"I feel like public radio should address this directly, because I think anybody who listens to our stations understands that what they're hearing is mainstream media reporting.” How auspicious, right? I bet Schenkein the Clown is proud.

Confluence Park
Confluence Park

Michael - On the topic of ending Congressional funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) you do a good job of getting inside the head of an exec in ONE CAMP within the public radio community, which represents the state of affairs at many major market public radio stations. CPR, like their big city counterparts, subscribes to a relatively play-it-safe approach to programming and operations. Their highly researched product (research running into the six figure domain) does pay great dividends in terms of business underwriting and listener support dollars. But in the process, some of us think this PROCESS-HEAVY management style curtails the creativity that is possible to generate new programs and/or ideas. EIGHT TO TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS OF DEBT aside, CPR is feeling relatively good about the ending of CPB funding. This is NOT a stance shared by "rough around the edges" rural public stations, and lower-budgeted urban public stations, which unlike the CPR's of the system, operate with far more volunteer energy, spontaneity, and room for creativity. A comparable column on this topic, with ample reader comments, appeared in the Denver Post this past week:

I hope that your familiarity with Grand Junction and the Western Slope will serve you when you decide to shine some light on ANOTHER CAMP in public radio circles. Simply put, here is the bottom line:

The backbone of today's conservatism, rural America, would lose the most with an end to CPB funding. In radio terms, it will be akin to ending Federal support for the 1,000 rural electric coops around the country. When CPB funding ends, some of the more "cavalier" major market public stations will be able to just waltz into rural station hamlets and score another station for their trophy wall.

The concept of LOCALISM, now being touted as the only way top save a dying medium, WILL DIE. To see the future, all you need to do is look at CPR's prime associate station in Grand Junction, KPRN. For nearly 20 years, the storefront of the KPRN studios on Main Street remains a very high profile space downtown, with plenty of radio equipment in the spacious front window. The KPRN space is large enough for several employees, yet only one business underwriting employee works there on a regular basis. When you listen to KPRN, the predominant feature for local cut-ins to CPR programming are for business underwriting spots and pleas for listener support. LOCALISM died the day the once-independent KPRN Board voted 6 to 3 to merge with KCFR to form CPR. The Board vote came due to budget pressures; the kind of pressures that will be felt, tenfold, at all rural stations when CPB funding stops.

An end to CPB funding will mean MAJOR MARKET public stations will be set back, but they will have enough large market business and listener support to "scrape by". Rural, and lower budgeted urban public stations, providing the best hope to generate new ideas and budding talent, DO NOT HAVE THAT LUXURY !!!


It's unbelievable. For once, at last, finally, someone had the stones to actually describe the teabagging scum for what they predominantly are...........unapolagetic racists........and the brave lady got her headhanded to her, the gasbags like lamborn leading the charge.

Now the obligatory "stop the funding" cry that works every time for these conservative republican hucksters.

Another faux "scandal".

No different than the made up charges against ACORN, the false and heinous accusations against Planned Parenthood, the despicable hue and cry of the glenn becks and breitbarts of the world against good and decent civil servants like Agicultural Dept. worker Shirley Sherrod that cost her her job, the fabricated tales about Van Jones that did the same,

No different than the phony circus NY Congressional Rep King is running re: "The radicalization of American Muslims". When in truth, the group most likely to be "radicalized" is the very extreme white christian terrorists that are responsible for 23% of all terror attacks since 1999.

Just a footnote, King was and never denied being a vocal and agressive supporter of the murderous white catholic terrorist group known as the IRA.

The message coming from the GOP funded mouthpieces appeals to a conservative crowd that is at once broad and large. Teabaggers, birthers, tenthers, homophobes, anti-military, anti government, anti-choice, anti-taxes for any reason, racial purists, and more.

The very listeners to beck, breitbart, caplis, limbaugh, boyles, brownie, hewitt, savage, malkin, coulter, james, et al. If I'm worried about anybody, it's these teabagging, birthing, moronic goobers taking the aformentioned liars for hire seriously and acting on what hate they hear them spout........................again.

Bottom line, an employee at NPR got fired for accurately describing a hate group.


Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for the extremely detailed post, Confluence Park. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

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