For drivers who enjoy listening to news radio stations on their way to work, the state of the national budget may cause a disruption to their morning commutes.
Though the U.S. Senate has yet to approve a federal budget for the next fiscal year, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate all federal funding for public broadcasting, constituting a drop of about $445 million by 2013.
While the loss may not be substantial for broadcasting giants such as Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, local broadcasting stations across the country would feel significant financial effects.
According to NPR’s website, the company gains 34 percent of its revenue through membership fees that stations like Michigan Radio — the NPR station affiliated with the University that serves Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids — pay in exchange for programming. NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, though about 2 percent of the company’s revenue comes from grants awarded by federal agencies.
If the bill is passed, Michigan Radio stands to lose up to $425,000 of federal funding — a figure that represents 8 percent of the station’s yearly budget.
“($445 million) per year is a relatively small number in the scope of the federal budget,” Steve Chrypinski, Michigan Radio’s marketing director, said. “(But) for some stations that would be a really (harmful) cut. Federal money can be up to 40 percent of (a station’s) budget.”
Severely affected stations like WNMU, which broadcasts in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northeast Wisconsin, will experience the greatest financial distress in the event of a funding cut. Eric Smith, WNMU’s general manager, told The Los Angeles Times in a March 11 article that the loss of funding “would be devastating” for the station.
Other stations in similar financial positions would be forced to lay off many staff members as well as decrease programming, Chrypinski said. He added that Michigan Radio would consider these options to make up for lost revenue, and the station may increase fundraising.
“We haven’t made any specific contingency plans saying we’re going to eliminate this program or make changes in staff,” Chrypinski said. “(That is) partly because we don’t know how it’s going to shake out — will that money be cut by a percentage (or) will it go away entirely?”
While Michigan Radio is part of an industry that has been shrinking in recent years, Chrypinski said the company has increased reporters to “fill the gap” between demands for news radio and the dwindling supply of companies still broadcasting.
“Aside from what NPR does (by) providing national and international news, we do dozens of local feature stories covering news going on in Michigan,” Chrypinski said. “Public broadcasting is really filling a need that I think is there.”