Norah's New Math Grossly Understates NPR's Fed Funding

Trying to write off calls—in reaction to the Juan Williams firing fiasco—for the federal defunding of NPR as mere right-wing electoral politics and "cable catnip," Norah O'Donnell has grossly understated the proportion of its budget that NPR obtains from the feds.

Aided and abetted by Chuck Todd, Norah offered her misleading math on today's Daily Rundown on MSNBC.  O'Donnell claimed that only 1-3% of NPR's budget is derived from federal funding.  But as you'll see, the real number is at least double that.

View video after the jump.

Norah's 1-3% claim is based on the percentage of its budget that NPR receives in direct federal grants.  But O'Donnell conveniently forgot to mention that about 40% of NPR's budget comes from payments from its affiliate stations.  And as MRC's Tim Graham detailed here, those stations derive about 13% of their budgets from the feds.   Getting a bit down in the weeds, that means that in addition to the 1-3% in direct funding, NPR is getting about 5% of its budget from federal funds directed to the affiliates and then funneled back to the NPR mothership.  

So . . . total percentage of NPR's budget flowing from the feds is 6-8%, or at least double what Norah claimed.  

Watch O'Donnell and Todd play fast and loose with the numbers.

CHUCK TODD: NPR says the feelings Williams expressed were not compatible with his job as a news analyst, and that's drawn fire from the right, including calls to cut NPR's limited amount of federal funding. Norah O'Donnell is MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent. So Norah, how real are these threats about seeing its federal funding, and how much money, what percentage of NPR's budget is federal funds, taxpayer money?

NORAH O'DONNELL: It's about 1-3% that NPR receives in some taxpayer money.  Most of NPR is funded through their local stations, through corporations, through the people who like NPR, private donations.  They apply for grants and then, to the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, and some of that is federal money [try virtually all], so 1-3% is what they say.

TODD: But a very small amount.

O'DONNELL: It's a very small amount.  So cutting their funding won't really cripple NPR. But it sure does make for good TV, and it sure does make for probably good politics for those on the right, and that's why the right has now declared war on NPR.  The right's long accused NPR of its liberal bias and so there's nothing like some cable catnip, like a media-on-media war, and so that's why they're flogging this.



Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.