The public broadcast system governs itself through a variety of institutions — most of which are organized on a membership-model.
Even PBS and NPR rely on the voluntary membership of stations.
Through more than 30 such organizations, system participants amplify their needs and exercise influence over the management and direction of public broadcasting.
Here are influential organizations in the system pertaining to radio news.
Association of Independents in Radio was formed to unite the many radio producers who work on a freelance basis. A fair number of AIR members are associated with local public stations and many are active journalists. As a national community of radio producers, AIR can help you find talent, stories, programs, funding or just some helpful advice.
American Public Media is a network that competes with NPR and PRI to produce and distribute programs to nearly 800 U.S. public radio stations. APM’s main offerings to the system are Marketplace, A Prairie Home Companion, the BBC World Service and Performance Today.
Unlike NPR and PRI, APM actually operates radio stations (in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, Idaho, California and Florida). APM is based in St. Paul and is the parent organization of Minnesota Public Radio. It also owns a for-profit publishing company, a theater, a social networking site, and an institute for “Innovation in Journalism.”
APM’s news programs invite submissions from station-based journalists.
The Integrated Media Association was formed to serve the emerging “new media” interests of public radio and television personnel. In 2013, IMA was merged into the much larger membership organization known as Greater Public (formerly known as DEI). IMA sponsors training and improvement projects and holds an annual gathering adjacent to the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference.
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters is a membership organization that caters largely to rural stations, minority stations or low power stations. Its members are less likely to belong to NPR and are likely to have few paid professionals and mostly volunteer staffing. NFCB stations have been growing their local news and public affairs offerings to better serve their communities.
NPR is a network serving roughly 280 member organizations (operating 800+ stations) in three major ways:
- Producing and distributing high quality news and cultural programming;
- Operating the satellite distribution infrastructure for the shared benefit of public radio;
- Representing stations on issues in their mutual interest.
The company employs more than 700, has an operating budget that exceeds $150 million. It is headquartered in D.C. with a major production hub in L.A. and bureaus around the country and around the world.
All public radio news directors should be familiar with NPR News as the network news division sets the quality standard for radio journalism. Not only will listeners demand local public radio news match the depth and craft of NPR, but also they prefer to think of the local and national programming as one continuous service. NPR journalists and station-based journalists have a history of working together to deliver on that preference.
Public Radio International is a network that competes with NPR and APM as a program distributor to 800+ local public radio stations. It doesn’t consider stations members but charges them affiliation fees and program fees. Its main offerings to the system are The World (produced in conjunction with the BBC and WGBH), The Takeaway (produced with BBC and WNYC), As It Happens (from the CBC), and This American Life (produced by WBEZ). It was founded in 1983 as American Public Radio. It is based in Minneapolis.
PRI has not developed as strong a working relationship with station-based journalists as NPR has. However, The World, The Takeaway and This American Life all invite story pitches from local stations.
Public Radio News Directors, Inc is a professional development organization for news managers at local public broadcast stations. PRNDI provides training and networking opportunities. Lately it has been expanding its services to better serve the roughly 1,000 journalists in local public media.
Public Radio Program Directors is a professional development organization that targets programming managers at local public radio stations. PRPD provides training and networking opportunities and has sponsored research initiatives to advance public radio. Its annual programming conference is the largest gathering devoted to public radio and its various formats.
The Public Radio Exchange is an on-line marketplace for public radio. PRX provides a convenient website for producers to exhibit their programs, and for stations to shop and license them for airplay.
The Station Resource Group invites membership by stations. It also serves as a leadership consultancy for public radio — tackling research projects for CPB, helping establish PRX and Public Radio Capital, issuing white papers, etc. News Directors can stay abreast of the best thinking in public radio by monitoring SRG activities.
The University-Station Alliance was formed to address recurring issues that crop up at stations licensed to colleges and universities. News Directors who seek firewall protection from university interference will find model “tenets” available here.