Overview and History
NPR has many dimensions. We are first and foremost a mission-driven, multimedia news organization and radio program producer. We are a network with a strong base of member stations and supporters nationwide. We are innovators and developers - exploring new ways to serve the public via digital platforms and improved technologies. We are also the leading membership and representation organization for public radio. You can read more about NPR's operations below, or jump to the history of our organization.
In a time of media fragmentation and sound-bites, NPR has succeeded by focusing on its core: in-depth, quality news. We've evolved from a secondary to an essential news source, with dozens of bureaus around the world and the nation. Drawing on more than 350 news staff (reporters, correspondents, newscasters, editors, producers hosts and bloggers) in the US and abroad-from Washington D.C. and New York to Shanghai and Kabul, we have the capacity to stay on top of breaking news, follow the most critical stories of the day and track complex issues over the long-term.
On-air and online, NPR presents fact-based, independent journalism that examines and airs diverse perspectives. Our journalists strive for mastery of the narrative form, telling stories in ways that transport the audience to the places where news is happening and introducing the people affected.
Beat reporters with expertise on everything from the Supreme Court to the media industry originate stories and produce explanatory and investigative journalism. They ask tough questions and explore the most controversial and complex topics with fairness, context, and editorial independence.
Since 1971, NPR and its journalists and programs have won hundreds of awards including 31 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, 56 George Foster Peabody Awards, 61 awards from the White House News Photographers Association, 24 Webby Awards (which includes 8 Webby "Peoples' Voice" awards) and 19 awards from the Overseas Press Club of America.
NPR produces news, talk, music and entertainment programs, including the premier newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, ranked #3 and #4 in the overall nationwide radio ratings. We also distribute programs produced by member stations and independent producers under the NPR brand. We look for high quality programs that add unique value to our member stations' service. NPR-distributed programs are presented alongside NPR's own programs on our digital platforms, including NPR.org, podcasts, and NPR Mobile.
Our full program roster includes 28 programs, and a widely carried newscast service.
In addition to a significant and growing radio service, NPR is widely recognized as a leader among media organizations in the digital arena. We are enthusiastically embracing digital media platforms and culture. Over the last two years our entire newsroom participated in extensive training to support a successful transition to the multimedia environment.
NPR.org presents constantly updated news and alerts, timely news blogs, streaming audio, downloadable multimedia content, exclusive multimedia features (video and photojournalism), and free access to more than 10 years of archived coverage and transcripts to web users through NPR.org. NPR Podcasts are among the most-downloaded sources of podcasts in the world, delivering approximately 25 million podcast downloads every month.
NPR realized the power of mobile early, launching a NPR News iPhone App in August 2009, which quickly joined the ranks of the top free News apps in the iPhones App store, and then a NPR Music App in June 2010; an Android NPR News App in December, 2009; and an app and optimized site for the iPad when the product was first introduced. NPR.org was revamped in the summer of 2009 to more seamlessly bridge the NPR on-air and online experience. Digital metrics suggest that our audience is engaged with us; we have approximately 2.5 million Twitter followers and more than 2.4 million Facebook fans.
In 2007, NPR Music launched as a free online music discovery destination devoted to music genres neglected by commercial media. Enriched by content from member station partners, it features live concerts and in-studio performances, interviews, reporting on-location from major music festivals and events, as well as reviews, blogs, and recommendations. The site is an influential arbiter of music tastes and trends, identifying and promoting classical, jazz and blues, rock/folk/pop, world, and urban artists. Its concerts at South by Southwest are must-hears.
More innovation is right around the corner. NPR will continue to invest in online media to ensure that our programming and stations are always relevant and compelling to audiences.
Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS)
NPR is the home of The Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), a combined satellite and internet content distribution service that distributes public radio programming and related digital content. This includes our content and the work of other program producers, including American Public Media (APM), Public Radio International (PRI), and independent public radio producers. The PRSS is managed by our Distribution Division, and its annual operations are entirely self-supporting based on the fees paid by both public and commercial clients.
Application Program Interface
In July 2008 NPR was the first major media organization to establish an open API (Application Programming Interface) to bring our content to a wider audience in a manner that is open, accessible and free. The NPR API provides a way for two computer applications to communicate in a common language so that NPR member stations, the public, and other non-profit organizations can find our content and present it on their own websites or applications.
Offering innovative research and consulting services to the broadcast industry, NPR Labs is a leaders in the advancement of broadcast radio technology. We are the only major broadcast organization that invests in radio technology assessment and research and development on an ongoing basis.
The Labs' engineering group is recognized internationally as a radio technology authority. In 2003 the team developed digital multicasting for HD Radio, the replacement technology for analog radio, and they conducted research and tests that led to improvements in the performance of HD technology.
Multicasting makes it possible for all radio stations - commercial and non-commercial - to offer multiple streams of programming on one channel, free to the public. More Labs-initiated innovations in digital radio are underway, including development of accessible media services for those with hearing and vision impairments.
Satellite and International Radio
Beyond the radio station network, and web and mobile services and applications, NPR programs a channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and one web-based stream. NPR also produces multiple international services heard in more than 150 countries, provides programming for Armed Services Radio and operates a radio station in Berlin.
Our roots go back to the earliest days of American broadcasting. In the 1920's, many of the country's first radio stations grew up at colleges and universities who wanted to experiment with this new medium to educate and entertain the public. In the late 1940's, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allotted the lower end of the new FM band exclusively to non-commercial, educational stations, setting the stage for a major station expansion. This is where most public stations are still found today.
As commercial radio began its first decline with the advent of TV, public radio grew, along with public TV. The big breakthrough came in 1967 when President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act. This new law led to the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which Congress called upon to encourage "the growth and development of non-commercial radio" and to develop "programming that will be responsive to the interests of the people."
CPB introduced technical and professional standards to improve what were then mainly small stations. Soon CPB and individual stations saw the need for a national radio service to bring Johnson's vision to life.
NPR was incorporated on February 26, 1970, by 90 forward-thinking charter stations to provide national news programming. In April 1971, NPR hit the air with live coverage of the Senate hearings on the war in Vietnam. Just a month later, we debuted our first weekday newsmagazine, All Things Considered. In 1977, NPR assumed a new responsibility - to represent the interests of NPR member stations (who had grown from 90 to 190) - before Congress, the FCC and others. Our premier newsmagazine, Morning Edition, launched in 1979, signaling that NPR was becoming an all-day news service.
This was a decade of transformational and tumultuous change. NPR launched the first ever nationwide, satellite-delivered radio distribution network to serve a growing network of about 250 stations, ushering in a decade that saw an explosion in new national programs for public radio. In 1983, NPR suffered a severe financial crisis; it emerged with stronger governance and management, and an improved business model that ultimately propelled growth for both NPR and stations.
A growing interest in news - local, national and international, led to expanded distribution of NPR programming and growth in audience. The Gulf War spawned the 1991 launch of NPR's first talk program, Talk of the Nation, and ultimately, the emergence of the public radio news-talk format. NPR launched NPR Worldwide in 1993, providing programming beyond the boundaries of the U.S., and throughout the decade NPR stations expanded their services -- acquiring additional stations and growing their own programming and operations. The effort in 1994 to eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting led to an unprecedented burst in contributions from listeners, and a groundswell of non-partisan political support from the public. Federal support for public broadcasting was maintained.
September 11, 2001, was a turning point for NPR; a catalyst to shift our orientation even more fully to high-quality, contextual, timely news - both domestic and foreign. 9/11, Election 2004, the Iraq War, the primaries and Election 2008 led to spikes in audience, and most of these new listeners stayed with us. Over the last few years, we've extended our focus to build an equally compelling service on NPR.org, as well as mobile sites and apps. These digital platforms offer more ways to listen, learn and experience NPR and stations, and new people are discovering us every day.
Today we are experiencing another era of innovation, not unlike the earliest days of radio, though much faster, and more chaotic and dynamic. Our radio service is a strong foundation upon which to build, as NPR and its stations are actively embracing the power and potential of digital media to serve our mission.