Tuesday, April 5, 2016


You’ve probably heard that Krista Tippett’s weekly podcast/program On Being [link] is moving its distribution from American Public Media (APM) to PRX. On Being is one of public media’s finest productions. The program is a perfect fit with PRX, now public radio’s fastest-growing national program syndicator and owner of the podcast portal Radiotopia.

But why is this happening now?  Why should Tippett take the project from APM who lunched, nurtured and promoted On Being since it began as Speaking of Faith in 2003?

The answer, of course, is money.

This is another prime example of how PRX has changed the landscape for public radio national programming.  The old model (still used by APM, NPR and PRI) is that the network charges a membership or affiliation fee for stations to get access to programming and then charges carriage fees too.

Under the PRX model, stations pay a very small fee for membership and then pay carriage fees via PRX’s Sub-Auto automated payment service. The PRX system costs programs pennies on the dollar compared to APM.

From our research, On Being is carried on around 300 stations including maybe 95 billable customers. For a detailed description of “billables” see our recent post about why Whad’Ya Know was cancelled [link]. 

Given APM’s carriage fee rates for On Being, we estimate that the program brought in over $400,000 a year via APM.  Assuming the percentage APM kept for distribution and marketing was substantial, PRX distribution brings more money to Tippett’s bottom line.  This is the same reason This American Life left PRI for PRX in 2014.



Public radio and television stations in Alaska are preparing for major cuts in state support. Last week a House Finance subcommittee proposed zeroing out state operations grants for public broadcasting. The state grants are a lifeline for many Alaska stations, particularly in remote areas.

Alaska is facing an enormous budget deficit due to low prices for oil. Alaskans have provided bi-partisan financial support for public broadcasting since the 1970s.  Last year the state provided approximately $4.3 million dollars down 25% from recent years. State funding is provided for 26 noncommercial public radio and TV stations.

The best-case scenario is a plan offered by Governor Bill Walker that cuts public broadcasting support about 20% for FY 2017.  The worst-case scenario is a proposal from State Representative Lynn Gattis (R-Wasilla) that cuts state support to zero after a couple of years. Gattis’ proposal would leave only $800,000 in FY 2017 for stations to pay for maintenance costs.  so the roughly 25 radio and TV stations can continue to operate, for the time being.

State Representative Lynn Gattis

Gattis’ rationale is that Alaskans don’t need public broadcasting any more because the Internet and cell phones have expanded access to information. Plus Alaska Republicans want to drastically reduce the size of state government and dislike some of the news coverage the stations provide. Gattis explained:

“Personally, before I reach into Alaskans’ pockets to pay for government, this is my attempt at reducing the size of government.”

A spokeswoman for Gaddis said Alaska stations should generate more income themselves and push for additional federal revenue. CPB currently provides around $8.6 million for Alaska stations.

The proposals next move to the full House Finance Committee.


Jody Evans, President of the Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) and Doug Eichten, CEO of Greater Public [link] announced an “institutional partnership” to help public radio stations connect with younger and more diverse audiences. According to the press release:

We know you're aware that research findings are becoming more pointed and the hallway conversations are growing louder. Public media's loyal audiences are aging -- fast -- and we're not keeping pace with audiences aged 50 and younger.  Our listenership is overwhelmingly white, yet the racial demographics of the country are changing rapidly in markets large and small.

From the press release:

We want you to know:  we're on it.  And we're tackling this together.    

Good to know.

1 comment:

  1. There's another, oft-overlooked aspect of show distribution moving to PRX: internet connectivity vs satellite distribution.

    Even for once-weekly file-delivery programs, it's expensive to distribute content over the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS) compared to distributing over the internet-only PRX. But that's offloading a significant cost from the distributor to the station: reliability.

    The satellite system is, generally speaking, highly reliable. However, internet connectivity is, generally speaking, not that reliable. Not unless a station spends a LOT of money (typically $1000+ per month) for enterprise-grade ISP connections like fiber. For many stations, this cost is "transparent" because they're part of a college campus that already has enterprise-grade ISP connectivity. But not all of them.

    It's important to not overblow this too much. But it's also exceedingly annoying how many content creators are completely blind to this concept of how they're potentially dumping an extra expense in stations' laps and, almost, expecting us to thank them for it.