Wednesday, December 23, 2009

641 Public Radio Commercials

641 Public Radio Commercials

If you listen to public radio, you hear an awful lot of commercials for foundations. And many of these foundations are not supporting much. The foundation is left. The building is gone.

First, let's clear up something in the first sentence with which you may disagree. You might say "There are no commercials on public radio, just announcements of who contributed the money for the particular program." And you'd be wrong. The networks and the individual stations often have full scale sales departments, with people who go out to businesses and foundations and sell time. Except they don't call it the sales department. They call it development. Development is academy speak for begging and selling.

Now, as for those foundations. Notice that many of them were started by or for people whose companies were sunk. Take the "William T. Grant Foundation," a frequent contributor to NPR. W.T. Grant was kind of an upscale Woolworth's with delusions of Wal-Mart. It went belly up in 1976, and was at the time, one of the biggest bankruptcies in US history. The foundation, started the same year as the first Grant store, 1906, goes on. It has money. The former stockholders have, well, souvenir stock certificates. The foundations investors did better than investors in the business. There's nothing wrong with the remaining foundation, and nothing unusual about a foundation outliving its founders. But it just seems kind of funny to see in the imagination a Grant store with a huge "CLOSED" sign in the window, while the surviving entity has a spiffy website and offers some decent opportunities.

Then, there's the John S. and James L. Knight foundation. The Knights had lost control of their newspaper empire long before the company was sold to McClatchy in 2006. Which is what often happens when institutional investors are "guiding" (some might say manipulating) a business about which they know nothing. To the foundation's credit, there is only one Knight left on its board of trustees. And she probably knows her stuff, as most in that family did -- or at least seemed to.

Knight also is a big sponsor on NPR.

This posting was made possible by a grant from the Wessays Foundation, bringing nonsense into homes since um.. well, for a few years now, anyway. On the web at


--Rudy "For Life" Giuliani won't run for senate and won't run for governor. With friends like Kerick, he should run for cover. Plus he doesn't want the pay cut.

--Mike "For Life" Bloomberg gets the "Golden Mic Award" from the Broadcasters foundation of America. He owns lots of media, most of it electronic. But "broadcaster" Mike would never go near a microphone he owned despite the entreaties of dozens of his employees for more than a dozen years.

--Speaking of guys who run around on their wives, Tiger Woods is getting offers from every TV talk show under the sun, and probably will reject them all for the time being. So who eventually gets the guy? Not NBC's Today, which interviewed some of his conquests and the betting is on Saturday Night Live, Oprah or ESPN.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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