- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

The signal from National Public Radio just got a lot stronger, in more ways than one.

NPR has received a gift of more than $200 million from Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. She died Oct. 12, leaving NPR with the largest monetary gift ever received by an American cultural institution.

It’s left NPR giddy — “inspired and humbled,” as its president, Kevin Klose, put it yesterday. Correspondent Susan Stamberg allowed she was “rendered almost speechless.”

The donation was “a reminder that we in Congress must continue to provide critical support for local publicly owned radio stations, the heart of public radio,” noted Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus.

Some do not share the joy, however.

“Mrs. Kroc was a major Democratic donor, a partisan peacenik who fits right in with NPR’s liberal agenda. But no one mentions that,” Tim Graham of the Media Research Center said yesterday.

Mrs. Kroc donated at least $42 million to found two university-centered peace studies institutes and has been described as a “liberal Democratic activist” in some news reports.

“Let’s suppose Richard Mellon Scaife made a $200 million donation to NPR,” Mr. Graham continued. “There would be an immediate outcry that NPR was being tainted by right-wing bias.”

Mr. Graham added, “It will be interesting to see if this affects NPR’s congressional funding. I doubt it will.”

The private nonprofit’s annual operating budget is about $100 million. Its membership includes 750 independent radio stations scheduled to receive $86 million from the congressionally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in the next year.

But NPR traditionally maintains it receives no direct federal funding, relying on fund raising and programming fees. One percent to 2 percent of its money originates in grants from CPB, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, according to the NPR Web site.

Mr. Graham calls it “a shell game,” adding, “the NPR budget is meant to be confusing, and a headache.”

Meanwhile, a hoax news release credited to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) circulated at several news Web sites yesterday, calling for NPR to “turn away this blood money,” and for “Americans to boycott NPR programs since they will be bought with the slaughtered carcasses of billions of sentient beings.”

The satiric release stated, “Because the bequest amounts to about twice NPR’s annual budget, public radio stations will cease fund raising during NPR programs and Congress will withdraw all taxpayer funding.”

PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said his group did not issue the release.

Still, it articulates the qualms of those who believe NPR has a liberal slant and does not deserve federal money.

After a recent on-air disagreement between NPR’s Terry Gross and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dworkin came forward to say that “the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias” and that the interview was unfair to Mr. O’Reilly.

NPR continues to produce 32 regular programs, heard by 22 million listeners each week — double their audience in 1993.

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