The new CEO of NPR, Jarl Mohn, comes mostly from the world of commercial media. He made his name at VH1 and MTV, and then went on run the E! channel (Current, 6/24/14). That's not his only experience; he's been involved with public radio too, as a board member at Southern California station KPCC.
But it's not hard to see that he still speaks the language of a corporate executive. Here's a part of his interview with On the Media's Bob Garfield (9/5/14):
GARFIELD: You've said you can generate a lot more underwriting revenue than NPR has been getting, that we've essentially been undervaluing our ad inventory, considering the size and affluence of our audience. Which makes perfect sense, but it also infuriates and terrifies some listeners who fear for NPR's independence, and for its very soul. What can you say to talk them down?
MOHN: They're not going to, as a listener, notice anything different. We're not talking about adding more units to each hour. The only thing that I think they might perceive differently is that we're going to be talking about brands that matter a little bit more to them, ones they're interested in. And we're going to ask for larger commitments from these underwriters…. The audience is growing. It's not just affluent, it's a smart audience and it's very engaged. What more could a brand want than this type of audience?
Anyone who listens to NPR has heard plenty of corporate sponsorship announcements, and some listeners have raised substantive questions about whether those financial ties compromise NPR's journalism (Extra!, 3/14). According to the new boss, nothing's going to change–you're just going to hear more about "brands that matter" because you'll be "interested" in them. That is, as long as you're part of the "not just affluent" audience that the supposedly noncommercial network is so proud of–for the "larger commitments" from sponsors they can command.