General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Is NPR really commercial free?

Asked by LostInParadise (27941points) October 18th, 2015

That is how they describe themselves, but they go on for up to about five minutes at a time telling about their “proud supporters”. When I am listening in my car, I shut the radio off for a few minutes. At least four times a year they have pledge drives that sound like long infomercials. These all seem like commercials to me. Forget about all the worthless gifts they offer for giving them extra money. The one thing I would pay extra for is not have to hear the supposedly non-existent commercials.

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8 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

The read the names and short plugs for the sponsors.

It’s a far cry from Paris Hilton eating a hamburger or beer commercials with monster trucks.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No. Not really. They used to be, 20 years ago.

Now they read 30–45 seconds of advertising. They don’t have musical ads (yet) but they are reading 45 seconds of “this company sells this product” so that counts as advertising to me.

I stopped contributing to NPR stations when they started these shenanigans.

jerv's avatar

For the most part, yes. At least technically.

The term “commercial free” means that they are not turning a profit from advertising enough to require shortening their programs to plug something. However, a pledge drive is to meet operating expenses; while it is revenue, it is not profit, so it isn’t technically a commercial.

As for giving thanks to their sponsors, the same applies. The sponsor may make publicly thanking them twelve times a day a condition of their charitable donation, but again, revenue isn’t always profit. While the sponsor may profit from the positive publicity, NPR doesn’t profit; they merely meet expenses.

It all depends on what your definition of “commercial” is.

stanleybmanly's avatar

NPR may be commercial free, but affiliates have been driven to begging incessantly, and it really just irritates the hell out of me. I understand the necessity, so I grind my teeth during pledge week and tune away. The 2 affiliates here caught on to the trick and synchronized their pledge weeks to ambush those who switch between the 2. The Pacifica station has been reduced to a state of perpetual pledging. I allowed my memberships in all 3 stations here to lapse, and only donate now through money orders at the end of the year and never, never,never during pledge week. I personally think the British have the right approach, and would willingly pay a broadcasting tax, but we all know the conservative view on such heresies as public radio and television.

_Seek_'s avatar

I, too, would willingly pay broadcasting tax (and healthcare tax, and public transportation tax.. but I get ahead of myself) but to stay on topic, I agree that the “Wow, aren’t our sponsors wonderful” chat has gotten annoying. I can’t generally assure I’ll be on the radio at a certain time, anyway, so I’ve since moved on to using the NPRone podcast app.

jaytkay's avatar

I’m not bothered by the fundraising, but I understand my station is probably much better off than most.

One interesting option is a pledge-free Internet stream. $15/month or $45/year in the days before a pledge drive.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the late 90s & early 00s, the public television station was shockingly terrible. It seemed like most of the air time was an infomercial for 1940s big bands and 1950s doo wop groups, selling CDs and DVDS to wring the last drops of cash from their soon-to-expire elderly viewers.

Blueroses's avatar

We have a quite decent local NPR station, KEMC 91.7; “This is Yellowstone Public Radio”.

It is very like I remember public radio in my childhood. Lots of local programming with real-time hosts and the most popular National broadcasts. It’s a familiar part of the cadence of listening to hear the list of benefactors and endowments from regional families of significant names, but it is very rare to hear “Morning Edition is brought to you by Swiffer” or anything of that sort.

I work a fundraising shift twice a year, on Saturdays. It’s a fun community contribution and I enjoy doing my part to keep free radio “free”. Plus, there’s always yummy treats from neighborhood restaurants to nibble between phone calls

cazzie's avatar

Their national funding is always being cut. They have donations from groups but they are donations and a tax write off. They are non- commercial meaning they are a non profit.

We have a license fee for broadcasting here. It is about 30usd a month billed twice a year. We get excellent tv programs and they are put on the Web so we can stream them with no ads. They buy content from overseas as well and make some of the best kids shows I’ve ever seen cheaper than cable and better quality.

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