NPR itself receives hardly any funding from the government. Only the satellite service receives direct federal dollars. The rest of the network is funded by foundations, corporations, generous individuals and fees paid by the hundreds of public radio stations that buy NPR programs. Those stations also operate on a mix of funding.
For large stations in urban areas, the dollars from government make up a small percentage of their income, usually about 10 percent or less. But in smaller towns and rural areas – places where the commercial marketplace does not see fit to operate – federal funding makes up as much as 50 percent of the budget. Without that money, upwards of 100 stations would be forced to turn off their transmitters. I don't think that's something the voters in those areas would like very much.
As Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said last week, "NPR provides a very valuable service." The Georgia Republican noted "an awful lot of conservatives listen to NPR." Given these tough economic times, Chambliss said, "I think the sacrifice is going to have to be shared by NPR as well as others. But I think total elimination of funding is probably not the wisest thing to do." He's right. NPR provides an invaluable service that Americans want to have continue. Efforts to zero out federal funding are political ploys aimed at satisfying a few conservatives who are unhappy with the facts that compromises have to be made on other issues. And are looking at some symbolic wins.