Public radio listeners: Do you pledge? How much?

It’s that time of year again – my local NPR station is in the middle of their spring pledge drive. Since we pledged at this time last year, my wife and I are due to renew our membership. I think we contributed $100 last time. This time, I’m flirting with the idea of a $365 pledge, because I certainly listen to KUOW for $1 worth every day. I’d break this into monthly installments and just pay it like the cable bill.

Realistically, we’ll probably pledge $100-$150. We’ll have to make a final decision in the next couple of days.

I also contributed $90.30 to KEXP, doing my part to support non-NPR public radio in Seattle as well.

Who else pledges to NPR or other public radio? How much do you contribute? Do you accept trinkets?

Depending on my financial situation, I give KEXP anywhere from $50 to $365.

I’m in Minneapolis/St. Paul and I contribute $120 per year, although I should up it because I’ve been at that level for about 10 years. At that level they give a magazine and a CD. I decline the mag and accept the music. I consider it a great value.

No. The local NPR and PBS stations (which are owned + operated by the same company) cater to the lowest denominator. There are only so many times I want to listen to Bolero or watch Antiques Road Show. Not nearly enough documentaries or baroque music.

Ironically, I would donate to several college radio stations, both online and in Orlando, because they play exactly what I like to hear, but I have never heard them ask for donations!

I also thought about donating to NPR or PBS directly, if there was a way I could while simultaneously giving a vote of no confidence to my local station (or at least not HELPING them). Perhaps I could give to WGBH or another famous affiliate that produces shows I actually like.

For my $160, I get a nifty messenger bag from KUT.

I could only give 15 dollars at the moment, since I’ve got zero cash. But I gave it to Ira Glass ( and am getting my squirrel cop badge–YEAAAH!

Interrobang!?: I’m a KUOW listener too! I’ve even forgiven them for the schedule change-although I wish they’d get rid of the Diane Rehm show every night!

Really, I think I gave this year just because I’ve heard that a lot of people are withholding donating due to the Bob Edwards situation.

We give $100 a year, and make a point of not doing it during the damn membership drives. I hate 'em hate 'em hate 'em. Though I suppose even if everyone who pledges during the drives did it at some other time of the year, they’d still have membership campaigns to try to get even more members, so my little one-family protest is as futile as it is pitiful. Grrrr.

Know why they have limited programs and don’t feature ones you like? Not enough people pledging. This translates to not enough money for the local station to purchase higher-quality programming that would be more in line with what the audience would like.

You may not know this, but NPR came into $22 million dollars back in the fall. Something NPR does not need is for you to send them your money directly, they’ve got a superabundance at the moment. The people who do need your contributions are the local stations. They’ll get by without your $65 pledge, but if dozens or hundreds of people stop doing it, your stations will have to drop the good programs and buy less-expensive, less-interesting, less-professional programs to fill up the airtime. And that’s the opposite of what you want, right? They can only buy what they can afford, and they get that money, or don’t, from the listeners.

And as for the current flap about people attempting to hurt NPR by not giving money to their local station because Bob Edwards is being reassigned, well that isn’t going to affect NPR in the least. Your station, however, will be hurting, and it isn’t their fault.

fishbicycle said…

And as for the current flap about people attempting to hurt NPR by not giving money to their local station because Bob Edwards is being reassigned, well that isn’t going to affect NPR in the least. Your station, however, will be hurting, and it isn’t their fault.

But the way part of the funding for NPR works is that local stations buy content from them. So, instead of giving during the drive time Morning Edition, I’ll give my contribution during Michael Feldman’s “Whad’Ya Know”. That show is produced by PRI, not NPR. I’m still giving to KWMW, but I’ll be “voting” for a different producer. If enough people do this, it’ll at least show the amount of displeasure out there for this move. Probably won’t change anything, but at least I can spit in NPR’s eye.

As to the OP, I go with the basic membership level, which, I think is $65.

NPR affiliate station Operations Director here. NPR is funded by underwriters, both corporate and private. Affiliate stations buy programs from NPR with the money raised during pledge drives. Some stations can only afford Morning Edition and All Things Considered, which costs in the neighborhood of 1/4 of a million dollars a year, as a package. Stations that can’t afford that much money have to air alternate programming, from PRI or elsewhere, or go all-automation and have most of their programming in the form of classical and/or jazz music provided by satellite.

Um, excuse me for not understanding your logic here, but I don’t understand your logic here. This would cast your “boo” vote for NPR in what way?

Again, forgive my incredulity at your comments, but what on earth are you talking about? Those hacks at NPR and/or PRI haven’t the slightest idea when your station airs their programs, and they aren’t soliciting opinions. They are content providers. That’s all they do. The money it costs to operate them does not come from your donation. The money you send in attempts to cover the cost of the syndicated programs your station buys. Period. I fail to understand how you think you’ll be having an effect, negative on NPR or positive on PRI by selecting what time of day you call to support public radio in your location.

Oh cripes, I’m not even going to touch that.

As to the OP, I go with the basic membership level, which, I think is $65.

If cards’ NPR affiliate is like mine, the on-air pledge drivers may say, at times, that calling in and pledging during a particular program like Morning Edition or This American Life is “showing your support” for that program. The implication is that the amount of funding a particular program generates has some bearing on whether or not that station will continue to air that program. Therefore, pledging during TAL instead of ME would show the local station that you prefer the PRI show to the NPR show.

I could be misunderstanding cards as well, and timing your pledge may in fact have zero effect on the big picture, but it’s not hard for me to figure out where the idea came from.

NPR funding is basically a big mystery to most people. Me included.

Since you work there, can you just do some free overtime for them instead of writing a check? :stuck_out_tongue:

I would love to pledge, but as a senior in college, my money well is running a bit dry at the moment. I feel like I’m ripping the station off, since I listen pretty much every day.

Interrobang!? has the interpretation exactly correct. I would think that the stations, when purchasing programming, would pay attention to what the local audience demands. This would feedback to the producers in local programming choices. This “boo” vote is known as derived demand (as marketers talk about it, not economists, different definition all together).

With the stations saying they look for us to “support the programs we love”, well, that implies the local station is paying attention to what is popular and will make sure to get that content. Think about products you buy at any retail outlet. The manufacturer has no idea who actually bought the product and has to learn the end market from the retail distributor. Different products move based on the retailer’s customers relative to the product lines they carry. If a product doesn’t sell, the manufacturer has to do a lot of research to understand why.

Far be it from me to argue with an insider, I’m just a lowlife businessman who understands markets.

NPR has had the same programs in the same timeslots for years and years. People get comfortable with that, and are extremely resistant to change. You would not believe the firestorm of complaints we get if we have to change the tiniest thing about the format. Public radio is a whole other animal from commercial radio. Public radio is a known quantity. When you hear it, you know what to expect from it, and they don’t usually mess with what works. By contrast, a Clear Channel station could change its format, announcers and call letters every six months. Often they do. So, the bean counters at NPR have figured out what people demand, and that’s what they offer to every station that can afford to carry it. The audience demand is virtually identical from city to city, everywhere in the country. There isn’t a big market in public radio for consultants who will tinker with your format until it’s right. NPR provides the format. You provide the transmitter.

If a person lives in an area with only one NPR station, how could they know what else is available? It has taken Tavis Smiley two years to catch on here. CC would have given up on him after 26 weeks. You would not believe the outrage and vitriol we had to endure from people when we put him on, instead of reruns of ATC, for eight months solid.

Wal-Mart and WXXX are not in the same business. They don’t follow the same business model. Their market analysts are looking for different kinds of information, and apply their findings differently. Public radio is not run like a commercial enterprise. It carries the same product line it always has. There is no “new, improved” NPR programming. It is what it is, and people like it for that reason. The format is different from station to station only because of the level of public support. Stations in well-to-do locales are able to afford the biggest and best, a very few even having separate stations for news and music. Some stations can only afford second-string shows and have to mix them with music.

That was gratuitous, arrogant and totally unnecessary. I’m a broadcaster who understands broadcasting. It’s not a contest. You don’t win because you attempted to piss all over my commentary with a backhanded insult.

I am sorry for the snarky comment, you are right to call me on it. I was wrong to react the way I did. I apologize.

Can I follow up a little? A great many enterprises (businesses, governments, etc.) fail over time because they get stuck in a rut (a reason for getting rid of Edwards), fail to meet the emerging needs of a new group (another reason for firing Edwards) or fail to meet the needs of core group vital to the stability of an existing group (a reason to keep Edwards). The balance of understanding the needs and tastes of these competing factors are key to how producers will succeed or fail over time.

My whole point is that I can express my desires based on my tastes and prefrences through how I make local decisions on allocating my scarce resources (money). How that translates through the production chain is a process that may be very different than how other markets works, but I tend to doubt that if there is not a demand for a product or service, it will eventually not be supplied.

I also meant to apologize to the OP for creating an environment where the thread got hijacked.

To the OP topic, $65 for the basic membership. I listen to KWMU (St. Louis), some of the commercial stations and XM radio (I’m in the car a LOT).

And I accept all trinkets, but prefer shrunken heads. I need them to make mine look bigger.

I support MPR (listen exclusively to KNOW 91.1, the News and Information Station). I give $120 and a local 2for1 dinner card, a gift (coffee travel mug this last time) and pass on the magazine. When there’s a bit of extra cash floating around, I intend to support Iowa Public radio (WOI radio group) as I take advantage of their web streaming.

I supported my local NPR station two years ago. Within a month of my pledge, I got two, yep TWO phone calls asking for more money. I just gave you $120.00 and you want more!!!

That was the only time I gave them money. I subscribe to WKSU, which I listen to via internet on occasion. They don’t call me, they take my money and leave me alone. I like that.

$365. They get to keep all the trinkets.

My only claim to fame (and it is a small one) is that I once had a letter that I wrote to ATC read on the air. It was about the trip to Nelso County, VA I took with my grandfather after the County was practically washed away by the remnants of Hurricane Camille. He was a Nelson County native and hearing ATC do a story on the tragedy brought back very fond memories of him. For nearly a week after the letter aired, people were asking me “Was that you they were talking about on NPR?”

Yeah, I know…pathetic.

For the last 30 years I have been supporting my local public radio station, KUNI at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, and also making occasional gifts to the station at Iowa State U and Wisconsin Public which I can pick up when the weather conditions are right. I have ignored the station at the U of I, Iowa City, because I can’t pick them up and what I have heard of them sounds like Radio Free Sweden (highly boring).

For the past few years I have been giving $120 but I seem to do it twice a year. I hate, hate, hate and despise the fund drives but it does pry money out of my pocket.