Twitter CEO Elon Musk's claim in an April 12, 2023, tweet that NPR had removed its statement about federal funding after Twitter labeled the network "state-affiliated media" was untrue. Archived versions of the webpage displayed the statement on, and before, that day, and was viewable as of this writing.
On April 12, 2023, after Twitter labeled National Public Radio's (NPR) account "state-affiliated media," a term historically reserved for propaganda accounts, a corner of social media fixated on a section of NPR's website outlining the organization's finances. The posts claimed NPR's site said "Federal funding is essential to public radio."
"NPR literally said 'Federal funding is essential to public radio' on their own website (now taken down)," Twitter CEO Elon Musk posted on the platform. "What hypocrites!" Attached to Musk's post was a screenshot of Google search results for "npr federal funding essential," displaying the headline "Public Radio Finances" on NPR's website with the in-question quotation underneath it.
NPR literally said "Federal funding is essential to public radio" on their own website (now taken down).
What hypocrites! pic.twitter.com/kYAXW0zpyl
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2023
Similar claims surfaced on platforms like Facebook and Reddit. They spread in tandem with breaking news that NPR decided to stop using Twitter in light of the "state-affiliated media" label, which Twitter later changed to "government-funded media." (As of April 21, 2023, Twitter had removed all such labels.)
NPR said that categorization was false considering the small amount of federal funding that fuels its operations — less than 1% of its annual operating budget, according to the outlet — and undermined its credibility, The Associated Press reported. (Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which Twitter labeled "government-funded media" around the same time, also stopped tweeting from its main account.)
The underlying claim about federal funding and NPR's website was true. At the time of publication, a section of the website said, "Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR." (The word "essential" is bolded on NPR's website.)
Musk's assertion that the nonprofit news organization had supposedly "taken down" the in-question statement was false. The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine showed the statement was displayed on that date, as well as before and after that date. There was no evidence that it had ever been removed, even temporarily.
The statement appeared near the bottom of NPR's "Public Radio Finances" webpage — which reports information on its revenue, sponsorships, contributions, expenses, etc. — under a section titled "Member Station Revenues" and the subhead "Public Radio and Federal Funding." It read:
Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.
Public radio stations receive annual grants directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that make up an important part of a diverse revenue mix that includes listener support, corporate sponsorship and grants. Stations, in turn, draw on this mix of public and privately sourced revenue to pay NPR and other public radio producers for their programming.
These station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR's largest source of revenue. The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations' ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution.
Elimination of federal funding would result in fewer programs, less journalism—especially local journalism—and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities.
Stations receive support from many sources, including:
- listener contributions,
- corporate sponsorship,
- in-kind and direct support from universities (when licensed to a college or university),
- foundation grants and major gifts,
- grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
- in some cases, state and local governments
On average, less than 1% of NPR's annual operating budget comes in the form of grants from CPB and federal agencies and departments.
In other words, NPR's webpage states that less than 1% of its annual operating budget comes from federal agencies and departments, as well as the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Grants from the CPB go directly to member stations, which use the money to help pay NPR for its programming.
According to the webpage, federal funding helps public radio stations pay fees to NPR. It states that without the funding, there would be "fewer programs, less journalism — especially local journalism — and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities."
In a different section of the webpage about the outlet's revenue, NPR says its two largest revenue sources are "corporate sponsorships and fees paid by NPR Member organizations to support a suite of programs, tools, and services." For instance, corporate sponsorships comprised about 39% of the organization's revenue between fiscal years 2018 to 2022, while "core and other programming fees" made up 31%, according to NPR.
Update: On April 20, 2023, Twitter removed all "government-funded" and "state-affiliated" labels from media account profiles, including those of PBS and NPR.