Tags: Ken | Stern | NPR | funding

Former NPR Chief Calls for End to Federal Support

By Cyrus Afzali and Kathleen Walter   |   Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013 01:41 PM

The former chief executive officer of National Public Radio believes the network would perform better without federal government support, he told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

Although NPR receives only about 10 percent of its money from direct government support, removing those subsidies would increase its credibility and allow it to escape the thorny issue of public support, Ken Stern said.

“I’ve been gone from NPR for five years, but in my time, (government support) was less than 10 percent of all their funding. However, it draws an enormous cost in terms of credibility, focus and the efforts they have to do to maintain that support,” he told Newsmax TV.

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“With that relatively modest funding, they’d be smart to actually think carefully about going on their own with corporate, individual, institutional, and foundation support.”

Mitt Romney made headlines with his “I love Big Bird” comment during the first presidential debate, calling for a cut in government funding for public television. Stern said he believes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds public broadcasting efforts but receives both government and private money, could better manage itself without involvement from Washington.

“Of the half a trillion dollars the government spends with charities, a very modest portion goes to public broadcasting. But public radio, which is by and large a very successful charitable service, would be smart if it thought keenly about foregoing that support,” he said. “There are actually a group of charities that do pretty well on their own.”

Editor's Note: Click Here to get Ken Stern's book, "With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give."

Stern stressed that his experience was in public radio and not public television. And he couldn’t address the specifics of PBS funding.

The author of a new book, “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give,” Stern said one of the challenges with charities is that some aren’t managed as many might expect. Add to that, many charities struggle to demonstrate effectiveness.

“The best example of that is charitable hospitals, which are more profitable than for-profit hospitals, pay their executives millions, and provide no more charitable services than for-profit hospitals and less than government hospitals,” Stern said.

Effective charities, he said, also are negatively overshadowed by nonprofits that cannot demonstrate effectiveness. Much of that ineffectiveness, he said, is due to lack of oversight demand from donors.

“Donors by and large don’t seem to care about the effectiveness of their charities. They say they do, but their habits belie it. Donors, by and large, actually put no time and effort into selecting the subject or charity they give to,” he said.

While Americans donate an average of $2,700 a year to charity, people often give to causes with which they’re familiar or that are support by employers’ matching-donation programs, and that, too, contributes to lax oversight, stern said.

“Americans put more time and effort into watching television one day than they do into researching charities in a year, and there’s a consequence. When charities aren’t required to show their effectiveness, they don’t do it.”

He also believes the Internal Revenue Service should be more selective in the charitable applications it approves.

“The IRS approves 99.8 percent of all applications. All you need is a stamp, a filing fee, government forms, and a modest facility.”

Once you become a charity, he said, “there’s very little oversight.”

“There are huge costs to that, not just in terms of charitable effectiveness, but also to the government. The cost of charitable deductions is $50 billion a year, and the federal government alone invests more than half a trillion dollars a year without really monitoring.”

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