What's the connection?
At times, the station receives correspondence and e-mail messages that suggest members' perceptions of the relationship between WAMU (your local station), National Public Radio (the program provider/distributor), and with you (a contributing listener) -- may be somewhat nebulous. We hope that the following information helps you understand the differences, and the interdependence, of the three entities.
WAMU -- The Station Serves the Community
WAMU is the 44-year-old station licensed to American University. At its inception in 1961, the institution decided to make WAMU a community service for the residents and visitors in the nation's capitol. As a university division, WAMU enjoys nonprofit status under American University, which holds the nonprofit status for all divisions. Through our 50,000 watt transmitter located on the campus of American University, WAMU enjoys the largest audience of all the local public radio stations, with an estimated audience of more than 600,000 different weekly listeners per our most recent Arbitron survey. As one aspect of our locally broadcast offerings, WAMU produces its own array of programs, and supplements local programs with a number of National Public Radio programs provided under an annual agreement with NPR. Our cost for WAMU's right to broadcast NPR programs continues to rise, and well exceeds $1.5 million annually. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the station is simply its ability to transmit the programs via 88.5 FM. In financial terms, listener support to WAMU typically covers approximately 50% of the annual operating budget, including the NPR affiliation fee.
National Public Radio -- The Corporation Provides Programs
Because of the strong national awareness of the NPR brand, it's perhaps understandable that some listeners who contact the station refer to themselves as NPR members. NPR is an independent, private, nonprofit membership organization funded primarily through its own service-generating activities. NPR produces, acquires and distributes programs, represents its member stations in matters of their mutual interest, and provides satellite interconnection for the entire public radio system. Because NPR does not have the ability to directly broadcast its programs on FM radio, the cornerstone of NPR's success is its network of more than 750 independently operated member stations, each of which pays NPR a fee to enjoy the right to broadcast certain NPR programs. Nationwide, NPR's newsmagazine Morning Edition is public radio's most listened-to program, and NPR's Car Talk is public radio's most attended cultural program. Because NPR's programs enjoy such large audiences, national sponsorship (i.e. underwriting) of NPR programs provides some operating support to the corporation. The network is the largest public radio program producer, with the flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered their most successful endeavors. With the advent of new content delivery systems, including streaming audio on the Internet, satellite, and digital radio, NPR has begun to provide direct distribution of some of their programs, but to date, the network has chosen to preserve its member stations' ability to serve as the sole source of Morning Editionand All Things Considered through local broadcasts. Although enjoying recent success through major giving and bequests, by policy, NPR is restricted from conducting direct solicitation of contributions from individuals through mass marketing efforts (e.g. direct mail, telefundraising, e-mail, and on-air), and is working collaboratively with WAMU and other member stations to assist our collective efforts in meeting local listeners' needs through station-based fundraising programs.
You -- WAMU Members Provide the Financial Support
You are the most important part of the relationship. You and all of WAMU's listeners define and inform how WAMU best meets the public radio needs of the greater Washington DC area community. By way of your need for news, dialogue on the issues and enjoyment of the music and entertainment programs -- both locally and NPR-produced -- WAMU occasionally asks you for your financial support. To maintain editorial integrity and sound fiscal health, WAMU relies on your contributions to preserve our quality of life service to you and your neighbors. As a WAMU listener, to support the NPR programs you enjoy on 88.5 FM, it's appropriate and appreciated when you make your contribution to the station that pays for -- and provides you -- with the programs. When it's time to renew your WAMU membership, please consider the time you spend tuned in to WAMU, place a value consistent with your need, and give generously. When you give, the benefits are enjoyed by all.