APR addresses Juan Williams controversy | AspenTimes.com

APR addresses Juan Williams controversy

Dear Editor:

Like many public radio stations around the country, Aspen Public Radio has received a number of phone calls and e-mails regarding NPR’s termination of Juan Williams’ contract. Some of our listeners support NPR’s decision, while others do not. The station respects both opinions.

Listeners should know that Aspen Public Radio does not have input or influence on personnel decisions at NPR. However, I can share with you an open letter from Vivian Schiller, the president and CEO of NPR, to station colleagues that may shed light on the process.

“This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted, and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act. I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about timing: whether NPR should have ended our relationship with Juan Williams earlier, on the occasion of other incidents; or whether this final episode warranted immediate termination of his contract.”

For more information about NPR’s code of ethics, please visit http://www.npr.org/about/aboutnpr/ethics.

Aspen Public Radio is also concerned about the feedback from our listeners regarding NPR’s funding. First, NPR does not currently receive federal funding and has not received federal funding since 1983. NPR does receive about 2 percent, or $3 million, of its annual revenue from competitive grants awarded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Congress appropriates “forward funding” for CPB. The amount of money CPB receives from the government is determined two years in advance and is approximately $450 million annually.

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The lion’s share of CPB’s funding goes directly to public broadcasting stations – both TV and radio. If the calls to suspend funding for CPB were successful, it would dramatically impact funding for local stations such as Aspen Public Radio and KDNK, as well as regional providers such as Colorado Public Radio and even Rocky Mountain PBS. The stations choose how to use the funding provided by CPB. Each station is autonomous and makes its own program selections. And it always bears repeating that, even though CPB funding is a significant portion of our funding, the single most important funding for stations comes from individuals.

If you remain concerned about the events surrounding NPR’s termination of Juan Williams’ contract, I urge you to contact APR at 920-9000, and our staff would be happy to discuss it further with you. You can also contact NPR directly by phone at (202) 513-2300 or by e-mail at mediarelations@npr.org. You can also contact Alicia Shepard, NPR’s ombudsman, at ashepard@npr.org.

APR appreciates that we have a dedicated group of passionate listeners who have taken the time to express their views.

Andrew Todd

executive director, Aspen Public Radio