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July 01, 2013

'NPR's Cash Cow' - Radio Executive is Steamed

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First, Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi wrote a feature highlighting National Public Radio's comfortable new headquarters, which lie virtually within the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

Second, two Post readers sent letters to the editor that criticized an executive for the Washington, D.C.'s top-rated radio station -- commercial news-talk outlet WTOP FM -- for questioning NPR's continued claim on taxpayers' money, given the up-scale nature of the network's building.

Then, Jim Farley, the WTOP executive in question, reasserted his point in a June 27 Post letter of his own:

"NPR just built a luxurious new headquarters that includes a café with chefs, a gym with a trainer, a staffed wellness center, plug-ins for electric cars and other perks. Does an organization that well-heeled still need taxpayer money?"

Farley's complete letter follows:

Letter to the Editor

NPR doesn’t need taxpayer support
"Charles H. Ellis III and Brian Ecker [“Throwing stones at NPR’s building,” letters, June 25] missed the point I made in the June 22 [Post] Style article, “Broadcasting their discontent.” NPR just built a luxurious new headquarters that includes a cafe with chefs, a gym with a trainer, a staffed wellness center, plug-ins for electric cars and other perks. Does an organization that well-heeled still need taxpayer money?

NPR says it needed the new headquarters because it ran out of room in its old building. That’s because it is growing. It is a vibrant enterprise that can afford to do without taxpayer largesse. How much better for NPR’s independence as a news organization if it refused the King’s shilling? The construct that the organization has two piles of money, one to buy its dream home and another with federal dollars that fund operations, is so twisted it would get a small-business owner in big trouble with the IRS.

At a time when newspapers and other news organizations are practicing austerity, and all federal agencies are pinching pennies because of sequestration, it is fair to question the support our competitor, NPR, gets from the federal government.

Jim Farley, Washington
The writer is vice president of news and programming at WTOP.

Addendum -- NPR Gets Tax Breaks Too

In a later article about the District of Columbia's failure to provide promised low income housing ("In District, affordable-housing plan hasn't delivered," July 8), The Post referred to one neighborhood not far from the U.S. Capitol: "This spring, NPR moved in across the street. The city bestowed $40 million worth of tax abatements and froze property taxes for 20 years to keep the media organization in the city."

"Supported by listeners like you," is the oft-heard tag line for NPR broadcasts. To which perhaps should be added, "not to mention friends in high places and low-income residents of the District of Columbia waiting years for better housing they were told was on the way"?

Posted by ER at July 1, 2013 02:34 PM

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