from today's new york daily news:
Despite its Kroc of gold, NPR will need donations
By DAVID HINCKLEY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Joan Kroc left some $200 million to NPR.
The late Joan Kroc's $200 million gift to National Public Radio doesn't relieve NPR of all future financial concerns, executive vice president Ken Stern cautioned yesterday, but it does open up some opportunities that weren't there a week ago.
"We see moving from an era of limitations to an era of possibilities," he says.
The exact size of the donation still isn't known, and Stern says NPR "is starting discussions this week" on how to use it.
Most of the money will come as an endowment, meaning that NPR can use what Stern estimates will be $10 million to $12 million annually in interest.
With no major capital expenses looming - NPR has almost completed its conversion from analog to digital broadcasting equipment - he says the bulk of it will be used on programming.
"We expect that within the next few years, listeners will hear direct results from this gift," he says.
The money could also indirectly help NPR member stations, which pay annual dues plus carriage fees based on audience size. Those fees cover about half of NPR's $100 million annual budget, but some smaller stations say they struggle to pay them.
Kroc's donation comes at a crucial juncture for public radio, which has been a target of Republican legislators who feel it has a liberal bias. Many have called for reducing or eliminating its federal funding.
On the other hand, its audience has been growing even as other news outlets like cable TV have proliferated.
NPR has about 22 million listeners a week, up 65% from four years ago.
"NPR began as an alternative, but it's become a critical part of how millions of people get their news and information today," says Stern. "I don't think you'd call it 'alternative' any more."
The question has been raised, Stern acknowledges, whether the Kroc gift could lead legislators or individual donors to assume that NPR now needs less of their help.
He hopes that's not the case.
"Ms. Kroc's intention, I know, was that this be supplemental funding rather than replacement," he says. "And as welcome and generous as the donation is, the annual income will represent only a small part of the public-radio budget."
Stern says NPR's real hope is the opposite: that this donation will inspire more large gifts.
Since federal funding stagnated a few years ago, NPR has been largely making up the difference through listeners' donations and "enhanced corporate underwriting."