How is NPR funded

National Public Radio : The sound of Berlin

When Americans in Berlin are homesick, they turn on the radio. National Public Radio (NPR) is on frequency 104.1. A piece of home for many listeners. "When I first found the station on the radio in Berlin, I thought, 'Now I can really feel a bit at home here,'" said a listener from Lichtenberg in one of the short spots that the station ran between news stories and talk formats.

Almost everyone in the USA knows the station: it has been a figurehead in the American media landscape for almost 40 years. Around 33 million listen to NPR every week, more than readers of the largest newspapers in the United States. Information formats such as “All Things Considered” are just as indispensable as the “Tagesschau” on German television, the distinctive voice of presenter Diane Rehm is as well known in this country as that of football commentator Sabine Töpperwien. At "Car Talk" two car mechanics have been solving absurd car problems since 1987 - and laughing fits in the audience.

NPR is considered critical and creative, its news sets journalistic standards and when demanding talk shows run on Saturday evenings, they can last two hours without a single commercial break. "Slow-Radio" is how the former US ambassador to Berlin John Kornblum described it - he too is an avowed fan of NPR Berlin.

The fact that the station has now also been in Germany for four years is thanks above all to Berlin NPR fans: in 2006 the frequency on which the government-affiliated US state broadcaster “Voice of America” broadcast was to be reassigned. As a result, many Americans living in Berlin got involved in their favorite station: They organized parties, wrote letters to politicians and the state media authority and asked that the frequency be assigned to NPR. With success: By 2013, the station was awarded a full program. In April 2006, NPR Berlin went on air.

NPR does not have its own Berlin office. The main program with the news and shows comes from the station's headquarters in Washington. Nevertheless, there are also articles about Berlin that freelancers make on site, mostly short pieces of 90 seconds or three minutes. “That sounds difficult at first. What do you do with ninety seconds? You want to tell a little story, ”says journalist Monika Müller-Kroll, who has been working for the broadcaster for four years. So she and her colleagues in Washington thought about which stories can be told about Berlin in a minute and a half. The result is the “Sounds of Berlin” - nice short stories in which Berliners tell in English what they particularly like about their city acoustically. It could be ping-pong in a table tennis bar in Prenzlauer Berg or the sound of scratched shellac records from a collector from Neukölln.

Even if there are no figures on how many listeners NPR Berlin has, there are definitely a lot of fans. "We get a lot of feedback in the mail," says Program Director Kingsley Smith. "NPR listeners are very loyal," says Monika Müller-Kroll. Many Americans in Berlin grew up with the station in the USA. This close bond between the listeners is not unimportant for a very practical reason. Because NPR is financed - apart from a minimum of government support - through individual sponsors and private donors. In the USA, the around 800 stations belonging to NPR are therefore soliciting financial support from the listeners on their own behalf. "Pledge Drive" is the name of the process in which NPR raises around 150 million dollars in the USA. Compared to the billions that the GEZ collects every year in Germany, this is an infinitesimally small amount. Nevertheless, the station has a larger network of correspondents than most US television stations.

Because NPR Berlin works in a similar way to one of the American stations, this year, for the first time, listeners in Germany were asked to support the station financially. For a month, NPR sent out appeals for donations. On the Internet, where NPR Berlin is represented not only with its own page, but also on Facebook, support could also be promised online. The first result: 92 listeners donated a total of around 8,000 euros. A result that gives program director Kingsley Smith hope: "We want to strengthen this in the future."

To signal that NPR is taking its Berlin offshoot seriously, the station hosted its first listener event at the end of July, which attracted 300 guests. The station's president, Vivian Schiller, traveled with the program director from Washington especially for this purpose. Kingsley Smith took away a lot of suggestions from the listeners and a lot of praise. “It's really exciting for us to be represented in Berlin,” he says. That is why Washington is now thinking about how the program could be expanded. Even beyond 2013.

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