Tuesday Trivia: Happy birthday, NPR

J. H. Osborne • Feb 26, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Today is National Public Radio's birthday. NPR was incorporated on Feb. 26, 1970. But its roots go back to the earliest days of American broadcasting. Many of the country's first radio stations emerged at colleges and universities that wanted to experiment with this new medium to educate and entertain the public. Colleges and universities continue to play a major role in NPR, including locally.

NPR is incorporated

Approximately 90 public radio stations created NPR, Inc. back in 1970. Today, there are more than 900 NPR Member Station signals broadcasting across the United States, and 95 percent of the U.S. population is within a listening area of a station carrying NPR programming.

NPR was born three years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

NPR Member Stations are independent, locally owned and operated broadcasters. In an era of media consolidation and corporate ownership, these local stations are becoming an increasingly rare and even more vital source of local news and information for the communities they serve.

About two-thirds of stations are licensed to, or are affiliated with, colleges or universities. The remaining third are governed by community-based boards. Some stations are operated jointly with public TV stations.

WETS broadcasts in Johnson City on WETS 89.5 FM.

WETS-FM is a public radio station operated as a partnership between East Tennessee State University and the station's listeners. Operating 24 hours a day at 89.5 MHz in the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia region, the station is heard everywhere on the Internet through the World Wide Web.

The mission of WETS-FM is to provide high-quality news and information programming for, and about, the region — about a 120-mile radius from the ETSU campus in Johnson City. WETS-FM serves as an informational and cultural outlet for the region, presenting news, music, and information that is unavailable on other broadcast outlets.

In addition to news from National Public Radio and its nationally distributed programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WETS features local and regional news through a partnership with the Kingsport Times News and the Johnson City Press. Regional interests are also addressed through the WETS Community Forum.


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; and in some cases, state and local governments.

On average, less than 1 percent of NPR's annual operating budget comes in the form of grants from CPB and federal agencies and departments. However, individual stations receive annual grants directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that make up an important part of a diverse revenue mix that includes listener support, corporate sponsorship and grants.

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