our view

February 17th, 2011 |

The money behind Iowa Public Radio


We are avid listeners of Iowa Public Radio (IPR), as we appreciate the serious news. But in opting for this format, IPR must take on fund-raising efforts, as they have recently. We don’t take issue with it garnering checks from listeners. Newspapers still try to do the same through subscriptions from readers, and satellite radio seems to be making it work quite effectively with its paid subscribers. Our issue is with the other funding that IPR receives.

Tax money.

Your money.

About $1,045,840 of it.

That’s the amount of funding that Iowa Public Radio is budgeted to receive from taxpayers in 2011. It is a purposefully lower number than years past, which we find encouraging. In 2008, for example, state funding was approximately $1.7 million.

Even so, we are troubled that IPR can continue to receive both private and public funding while at the same time compete for listeners and advertising dollars with other media organizations that don’t have that same luxury. As a result, the playing field is not level.

The state taxpayer portion is more than 15.5 percent of IPR’s total revenue.
Again, this amount is smaller than past years, but it is still significant. Private radio stations would like that million dollar check. We would, too.

IPR also raises about $4.5 million from listeners, which includes “underwriting,” a smoke-and-mirrors term more commonly known as advertising dollars.

The taxpayer portion officially comes from the Board of Regents and is funneled through each of the state’s universities, which must hold the licenses. The gradual reduction of university support is part of an effort by the Regents to make IPR an independent organization and to free up money for educational purposes. It appears to be working, and that approach should continue.

Public radio plays an important role in Iowa, but funding it with taxpayer money is no longer feasible, especially when those funds could be put to much better use in areas such as education and health care. We encourage the Regents to continue to reduce taxpayer funding and to push IPR to compete openly in the marketplace on its own. CV