Tag Archives: With great power comes great responsibility

A wake-up call to Vermont Public Radio

What follows is a tough assessment of our state’s public radio outlet. First, let me make clear that VPR is a strong organization that does a lot of good things. It’s my #1 spot on the radio dial. But in the words of Uncle Ben:

With great power comes great responsibility

VPR occupies an outsized space in our media landscape. It is the only media outlet that is not seriously strapped for money. It is deeply resourced and amply staffed.

VPR occupies a King Kong-sized space in the nonprofit landscape. It is a fundraising machine. It barely has to even ask for money*, so loyal and responsive is its listenership. When it does have to ask, it has a monster-sized megaphone at its disposal. I have no idea how VPR’s success impacts other nonprofits — especially those with parallel missions, like VTDigger or the Vermont Symphony Orchestra or the Vermont Humanities Council — but I do know that VPR rakes it in.

*Its spring fund drive was cancelled after listeners responded overwhelmingly to brief pre-drive pitches; its summer drive was whittled to practically nothing. Most public radio stations would kill for a response like that.

Numbers? Well,in FY 2013 (the most recent figures available), VPR’s total revenues were $8.27 million. Its neighbor to the east, New Hampshire Public Radio, which serves a population twice as large, took in $6 million that year. Of course, NHPR has to compete with other public radio services in all of its markets; with the exception of the Connecticut River Valley, VPR has a public radio monopoly. Plus, it’s the only NPR affiliate that reaches the Montreal market.

Anyway, that gives you a taste of VPR’s financial might. Now, remember the words of Uncle Ben:

With great power comes great responsibility

By that standard, VPR falls short.

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