I remember the first time I tuned into NPR. It was several decades ago, and it was as though a tropical breeze was flowing from the radio. Real, serious news coverage -- and no commercials. Wow, what a refreshing change from most of commercial radio.

The network became a huge success.

Thirty-three million people listen each day to NPR affiliate stations, and some 27 million tune into at least one program distributed by National Public Radio.

NPR's long-form news shows -- that actually explore issues in all of their depth and complexity -- are very popular with huge segments of the American public. And they are available to everyone. The network is especially popular with baby boomers and Americans with higher levels of education. But it is has ardent fans in every part of the population and every section of the country. In fact, 99% of Americans have access to an NPR affiliate. I would bet that the majority of cab drivers in America spend much of their time listening to NPR. And you can hear it coming out of barber shops, stores, homes and cars in pretty much every community.

The vast majority of its funding now comes from private donations, but the federally-financed Corporation for Public Broadcasting still provides a small portion of NPR's support -- and about 10% of the funding for 414 local public radio stations.

Yesterday, Republicans in the House passed a bill -- with no Democratic support -- to cut off funding for NPR altogether and to restrict local public radio stations from using federal funds from buying programing from NPR.

The Miami Herald quoted Patrick Butler, president of the Public Media Association that represents public television stations and NPR, as saying:

"The only result would be the loss of thousands of jobs in this industry, the closing or severe restriction of hundreds of local stations serving small-town and rural America which depend on federal funds for 30 (percent) to 100 percent of their annual budgets, including program acquisition, and the loss of vital information for millions of Americans.

By: Robert Creamer

[Please go to Part II]