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National Public Radio: Just call us 'NPR'

National Public RadioMy friend and award winning documentary film maker Alan Snitow wrote to me a couple of weeks ago with a good question. How come you rarely hear anyone at National Public Radio call it “National Public Radio” anymore, just “NPR”?

I went over to NPR’s web site to refresh my memory on this. By golly, I wrote back to Alan, it’s true. The only place you see the full name is up top where the meta title is.

<title>NPR : National Public Radio : News &amp;
Analysis, World, US, Music &amp; Arts : NPR</title>

Everywhere else it’s just the acronym.

So what’s with that? Alan wrote to NPR a couple of days ago. Was this inspired by Kentucky Fried Chicken going to “KFC”?

To which an NPR spokesdroid offered this reply.

“Thank you for your question about NPR’s branding efforts.

Over the past few years, we’ve been gradually transitioning from identifying ourselves by our full name, “National Public Radio,” to referring to ourselves as simply “NPR.” We’ve found that most listeners – and other news outlets – refer to us as “NPR,” and the acronym is now well known. That trend took place with other media outlets years ago, for example today people refer to the BBC rather than the British Broadcasting Company, or to CNN rather than the Cable News Network.

We’d like to attract more listeners to NPR, and more supporters to our member stations, and to do that, we need to be consistent in how we refer to our identity on the air, online, and everywhere you see a mention of our organization. For that reason, this year we’ve decided to make a concerted effort to reinforce the use of “NPR” more consistently throughout everything we do. This is why you no longer hear the familiar “This is NPR: National Public Radio” during our programs. Rest assured though, that NPR is the same organization you’ve always valued. (And know that everyone who has been listening for a long time as you have, will mentally add on, “….National Public Radio” when you hear the acronym from now on!)

Thank you again for contacting NPR to ask about this change. We appreciate your time and interest.”

Fair enough. Goodness knows we wouldn’t want public radio to be outpaced by CNN and the BBC. The problem is,  don’t we want folks to remember that NPR is “public” radio, with all the good connotations implied? Those would be less focus on commercials or sensationalistic content, more emphasis on public interest programming than you get via commercial radio and TV, and a sense that NPR belongs to the public that finances  NPR stations with listener contributions.

To be fair, National Public Radio fulfills those goals to varying degrees. And sure, long time listeners like Alan and I will always remember that NPR = National Public Radio.

But what about younger fans? Or is the point to gradually forget those missions—to be less mindful of the “public” part of NPR? I hope not.

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4 Responses to National Public Radio: Just call us 'NPR'

  1. dug February 9, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    From my conspiracy theorist side, NPR is a monopoly. They just don’t want you to know about the publicly funded part anymore so that private broadcasters will, hopefully, forget the fact and won’t beat a path to the politicians. I bet that you will see NPR pushing even more aggressively to beat out the private broadcast stations, pointing to their funding by sponsors, foundations, and ‘people like you’ to get people to ignore the government funded portions. Hence the change from ‘National PUBLIC Radio’ to ‘NPR’.

  2. Tapeleg February 9, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    National may as well stand for ‘News’ these days. I’m not going to rant about that, I’ll save it for a more appropriate time or post (probably sound like a curmudgeon in the process). But I like calling it both, and saying the full National Public Radio lends it a certain gavitas and authority. If I say I heard something on NPR, it’s one thing, but hearing it on National Public Radio defines the source better.

    NPR seems a little too caught up in branding lately. It’s public radio, and while it’s done well, it’s getting a little too slick for it’s own good.

  3. Kim Kaufman February 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    I call it “National Propaganda Radio” and hardly think it’s “public” as they take many corporate sponsors. They no longer do investigative journalism since their last big story on Archer-Daniel-Midlands as recently seen in the movie “The Informant.” After that story, after ADM was busted for price fixing and had to pay a huge fine, the next year ADM was a sponsor of NPR and NPR no longer did any investigative journalism. They’re just another brand of corporate shills as far as I’m concerned.

  4. paik chapar April 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    A great example of herd mentality in action. Just because other media outlets call themselves by their acronyms, so should we. If this is not an example of “original reporting,” I don’t know what is!

    One might also assume there is some scheme behind this decision: The less time spent on calling the proper longer name, the more time will be available to sell more advertisement. Money talks.

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