Public Radio Fund Drive Still Better than Commercial Radio

The radio alarm clock clicked on this morning to the sonorous tones of local blogger, and Chicago Public Radio new media geek, Josh Andrews doing his part on the pledge drive. Pledge drive normally serves as an excuse for sampling the commercial side of the dial. This morning, motivated by the Bears squeaker yesterday, I checked out the local am sports shows. (This despite the fact that I have access to three, and weather permitting, four other good non-commercial stations.) I started with the syndicated morons of sports radio. (Note the up-to-date web site with links to previews of the baseball and football seasons.) I could take only a few seconds before switching Chicago’s own local sports xenophobe, who was, alas, no more compelling

Luckily, I ended up back on WBEZ, pledge drive or no and heard ‘s moving story on Mayaguez’s Jesus Montalvo, the 55th Puerto Rican soldier to die in Iraq.

“He was the all-American guy, he believed in the United States,” Lopez says. “I disagree with the reasons why they made this war. But one thing is for sure — I really miss him. He was my hero. I have a hole in my heart. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Joe Taylor, Jr., Plneslon and Pleh have recently shared thoughts on how public radio could be paid for in the future. Plnelson:

There’s a complete disconnect between payments and services provided in the public radio model! I contribute money to local NPR stations which support programs I DON’T listen to and then I listen for FREE to programs from other stations I’ve never paid a cent for. It’s insane. It’s like buying tickets to Celtics games so you can go to Boston Chamber Music Society concerts for free.

Joe Taylor:

under the present public radio hierarchies, shows cannot raise funds on their own from listeners.

Folks on the Open Source blog are asking Christopher and his team to post a PayPal address so they can send in donations. Which would be fantastic if Lydon were producing a podcast from his own office. But, to get Open Source on the radio, he cannot — under any circumstances — accept a single dollar from a listener.

By its own charter, NPR cannot raise funds directly. And public radio program directors will not schedule a show that threatens to make an “end run” around traditional station fund drives.

Finally, here’s the way I like to remember public media pledge drives:


3 thoughts on “Public Radio Fund Drive Still Better than Commercial Radio

  1. I’m the first to admit that our current revenue models are problematic and stifle creativity and innovation. In fact, a program I poured my heart and soul into died because we couldn’t raise enough outside money to support it. But the minute shows and productions houses (NPR, PRI, APM) go directly to the listeners for money, chaos could ensue. There is already stiff competition between stations and producers for foundation support and major donor money. Add listeners to the equation, and we could easily see the strings cut that hold our “network” together. It’s the elephant in the room.

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