What is National Public Radio (NPR)?

Mary McMahon

National Public Radio (NPR) is an American media organization which produces news and cultural programming for syndication all over the United States. NPR member stations pay a fee to access NPR content for rebroadcasting, picking from an array of options which they think will appeal to local listeners. The organization has been recognized with numerous awards both for its broadcast journalism and cultural programming, and with hundreds of local stations, NPR can be heard in most corners of the United States.

NPR broadcasts can be heard in most areas in the United States.
NPR broadcasts can be heard in most areas in the United States.

NPR is a non-profit organization, with funding from several sources. The subscription fees from member stations form a substantial chunk of the operating budget, as do funds from pledge drives, in which member stations appeal to their listeners for funds. NPR also has underwriting spots in its programming, and benefits from grant money and federal funds authorized by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

Public radio commonly broadcasts human interest features.
Public radio commonly broadcasts human interest features.

The organization was founded in 1970 with the express goal of “creating a more informed public” by offering a range of programming for Americans to listen to. Morning Edition and All Things Considered are probably NPR's most well-known programs, although NPR also produces shows like Weekend Edition, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, Day to Day, and Science Friday. NPR also distributes Car Talk, Fresh Air, and On Point, among an assortment of other programs, and it has special coverage during events of national interest, such as elections and natural disasters.

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For small local radio stations, NPR can be very useful. It allows a station to broadcast world-class coverage without having to invest in correspondents, and it can attract listeners who actively seek out NPR stations. However, critics have pointed out that National Public Radio is very much a part of the mainstream media, and some local stations try to make up for this by having locally based reporters who cover issues which may be ignored or marginalized by the mainstream media, or by picking up coverage from similar networks like Public Radio International and Democracy Now.

NPR bears the dubious distinction of being simultaneously accused of having a liberal bias and a conservative bias. Critics of National Public Radio can be quite outspoken, and a number of alternate titles have been proposed to fit the acronym, like “National Partisan Radio.” In fact, balanced analysis of NPR coverage seems to suggest that it is a fairly neutral news source, at least when it comes to the news which NPR chooses to report. More accurate criticism could be focused on NPR's tendency to focus on issues which are already well-covered in the rest of the mainstream media.

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Discussion Comments


Oasis11-I think that there might be some value to the station.

I know that NPR Science Friday is a technology and scientific segment that even offers downloadable materials for teacher to use for their lesson plans.

NPR on WNYC may provide some educational value to school children and could be an additional source for teachers trying to explain complex subjects in science and technology. Ira Flatow who has been with NPR a long time hosts the show.


BrickBack-I agree with you. If they tempered their viewpoints a bit they would actually broaden their base of listeners.

But not all of the segments are bad. I know that they have a segment called NPR Driveway Moments in which listeners send their favorite clips from movies to the station.

The station then airs the clip and people often stay in their cars until the segment is over in order to finish listening to the piece.

I think it is a great idea because it gets people interested to the point that they want to remain in their cars and listen to the station even after they have arrived at their destination. I hate when that happens because I really want to get in the door, but I can’t leave my car. These segments are really the only ones that I liked from 89.5 NPR.


Bhutan-I know that Terry Gross on NPR has an entertainment show called NPR Fresh Air in which she interviews celebrities on her show.

I usually prefer to watch other programs on talk radio instead of listening to NPR on 88.5. I normally listen to Rush Limbaugh on WIOD in Miami.

He is on from 12-3, and unlike NPR he has over 20 million listeners and paid advertisers supporting his show.

I think that NPR podcasts and general programming should offer be funded by advertisers like all other media is. If they offered a more balanced view they probably would impact more listeners because people would not feel left out of the political discourse like many media outlet tends to do.

This is why Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh Show have such high ratings because people do not want to hear one side of an issue. They want to feel that their opinions are represented and articulated by someone on the panel of commentators.

Until they offer a more balanced viewpoint, I don't think they should get public funding.


Anon22919-I could not agree with you more. This station does have a liberal bias and what is really not right is that 25% of NPR’s funding comes from the United States taxpayer.

I think that if we are going to offer funding to this radio station then they should offer both sides to an issue rather than having liberal commentators offering their view points with no opposition.

The Republicans have talked about pulling their funding and maybe with the new House of Representatives, they might.


I have listened to NPR in the mornings on my way to school. They are 100% in favor of government bailouts. I have never heard a guest on their show who opposes bail outs. Many times they will just bring Paul Krugman on the show with no one to disagree with him. Krugman is known for being liberal and has socialistic economic views. I do not listen to NPR anymore because it is so one-sided on this issue.

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