For immediate release
May 3, 1999

NPR and PRPD Announce New
Live Events/Breaking News Strategy

Washington, DC - National Public RadioŽ (NPRŽ) and the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD) have developed a new set of strategies to improve station and network coordination during live events and breaking news. The improvements include more standardized program format clocks during live coverage of major events, protected newscasts during breaking news coverage, and more predictable cutaway opportunities for member stations. In addition, the NPR/PRPD working group agreed to seek resources to create a dedicated newscast channel.

The working group agreed that the following principles should shape live events and breaking news coverage -- radio formats should be consistent, reliable and user-friendly to all member stations, stations need reasonable opportunities to identify themselves and underwriters, joins and cutaways should be seamless, and outcues and break lengths should be standardized.

It was agreed that NPR will handle live events coverage in the following ways:

1. For coverage on the main news channel (A 66.5) --

  • When NPR offers live events on channel A 66.5 during its regularly-scheduled programs, it will follow the regular format of the program while providing this coverage.
  • When the event does not allow for the program's regularly scheduled breaks (such as during a live Presidential address), the clock is "suspended" until the event ends. Once a break is possible (immediately following the live event), NPR will resume using the clock for the regularly scheduled program.
  • When live coverage is offered on NPR's main news channel and that coverage is offered to all NPR stations, a standard outcue ("..this is NPR, National Public Radio" followed by a one-second pause) will be offered immediately following the live event to allow stations that do not regularly offer the program to cut away to regular programming. For example, if a station that does not air Talk of the Nation (TOTN) wants to air live coverage of a Presidential address airing on the main channel during TOTN, the host will give the outcue immediately after the event concludes.
  • If the live coverage on A 66.5 is offered to all NPR stations, NPR will use a generic name for the program.

2. For coverage on a separate channel --

  • When live event coverage is offered on a channel other than A 66.5, NPR will follow the NPR News/Talk Clock as closely as possible. When events do not allow the program to follow the clock, NPR will provide one-minute breaks whenever possible for station IDs and local announcements. The goal will be to provide these breaks as near to the top or bottom of the hour as possible, but will occur when the event best allows. The Squawk Channel will be used to alert stations about an upcoming break.

  • During live coverage on a separate channel, NPR will regularly offer cutaways to stations to join other programming. For example, during the Impeachment Trial, NPR offered cutaways for stations who wanted to go to All Things Considered or other programs. These cutaways will be preceded by a standard outcue ("..this is NPR, National Public Radio" followed by a one-second pause).

3. A shared goal of protected newscasts --

  • NPR and PRPD agree that a dedicated newscast channel is the best way to assure reliable newscast service at all times and to avoid moving the newscasts from channel to channel when live event coverage occurs. NPR is investigating the cost of establishing a dedicated newscast channel (separate from A 66.5).

NPR will present further information on its live events coverage during the annual Public Radio Conference which will take place at the Hilton Washington & Towers in Washington, May 12-16.

The PRPD participants in the working group discussion were Executive Director Marcia Alvar, PRPD Board Chair and WUNC Program Director Michael Arnold, PRPD Board Member and Vermont Public Radio Director of Broadcasting Mike Crane, WBUR Managing Director of News and Programming George Boosey and KPBS Operations Manager John Decker. NPR participants included Vice President of News and Information Jeffrey Dvorkin, Executive Director of Newscasts Pete Michaels, Managing Editor Bruce Drake, Morning Edition Executive Producer Ellen McDonnell, Supervising Editor of News Operations Michael Lawrence and Satellite Operations Manager Ralph Woods.

PRPD was created in 1987 to help public radio programmers provide a valuable service to listeners. PRPD exists to lead, train and provide resources to public radio program directors and other programming decision makers including station staff and program producers.

Renowned for its journalistic excellence and providing standard-setting news, information and cultural programming, NPR serves a growing audience of 13.5 million Americans each week on 607 public radio stations. NPR also distributes programs to radio, satellite and cable listeners in Europe, Asia and Africa via NPR Worldwide, to military installations overseas via American Forces Network, and throughout Japan via the USEN 440 cable service.