public broadcasting STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA | 2016

PUBLIC MEDIA in the U.S. is primarily represented by two networks: the audio division is represented by National Public Radio (NPR). These stations deliver news to local communities over the airwaves and even through smartphones & computers. The television division is represented by PBS and its network of local stations, which broadcast educational, cultural and news content. Audience data suggests large stability of this sector, with possible avenues of expansion in podcasting and digital apps.

Public radio and television are far less dependent on advertising dollars in order to continue operation. This fact separates them from most other news media.

The public media sector with the most year-over-year revenue data are radio stations, showcasing a steady growth overtime.

Mobile Progress

In 2015, NPR and PBS announced several joint projects, including a collaboration on coverage of presidential campaigns in 2016 and three digital initiatives.

Mobile strategy is a key part of digital presence within media, and both NPR and PBS NewsHour witnessed mobile traffic to their websites outpace desktop traffic.

NPR offers two primary apps - NPR News (2009) and NPR One (2014). New downloads of NPR News fell in 2015 for both Android and iPhone users but were stable on iPad. NPR One Android downloads outpaced iPhone.

Average number of monthly sessions by device

Three NPR podcasts were launched in 2015 and a fourth was added in March of 2016. Reports say the organization saw an average of 2 million weekly podcast users.


NPR reported leveling out on listenership, with an average of 26 million tuning in weekly to any of its programs during 2015, about as many as in 2014. NPR's morning news program Morning Edition and its evening news magazine All Things Considered were the two most listened-to programs. Each attracted around 12 million weekly listeners.

Average weekly terrestrial listenership

NPR slightly expanded its broadcasting reach in 2015 across all three of the main affiliate types: Member organizations, up from 263 to 265 Member stations [all stations owned or operated by member organizations] up from 946 in 2014 to 972 in 2015. Stations airing NPR from 1,029 in 2014 to 1,054 in 2015.

PBS NewsHour - the flagship public television news operation - saw a slight decline in viewership in 2015. The program attracted 828,000 viewers on average, down 2% from the year before.

Individual Public Radio Stations

Roughly 1,000 individual public radio stations around the U.S. carry NPR programming, but many also broadcast their own news. The total revenue for the top 125 news-oriented station licensees (about 200 stations), increased from $650 million in 2008 to $806 million in 2014. Individual giving and underwriting are two key sources of funding this sector. Total number of individual members - those who have given money to one of the stations - has also grown overall since 2008.

Finance & Revenue

NPR closed fiscal year 2015 with an operating surplus of nearly $6 million, the first year since 2008 the organization did not report a deficit. This was the result of spending reductions, expanding podcast offerings, new leadership hires and a revamping of its events strategy. Operating revenue was reported to be at $196 million for the year.

PBS NewsHour derives its revenue from a number of sources including PBS, CPB and a mix of "non-public" streams such as corporations, individual giving and foundations. In 2015, foundation grants and funding accounted for 71% of non-public funding sources, up 56% in 2014. Contributions from individuals have also increased 6%.

Source: PewResearch Center. Holcomb, J., Matsa, K., & Vogt, N. (2016, June 15). Public Broadcasting: Fact Sheet. Retrieved from


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