Undercover NPR video scandal may affect WBAA - Purdue Exponent: Campus

Undercover NPR video scandal may affect WBAA

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Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 10:11 am, Thu Mar 10, 2011.

Effects of a tape scandal within National Public Radio can be seen here at Purdue.

Last month, Ron Schiller, an NPR executive, and Betsy Liley, member of the NPR development team and former Purdue assistant vice president for corporate and foundation relations, met with two men claiming to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were offering NPR a $5 million check.

Liley is a Purdue alumna and served as editor-in-chief of The Exponent during her time as a student. She went on to serve as vice president for corporate and foundation relations in 2007 before leaving Purdue to work for NPR.

Unknown to Schiller and Liley, conservative political activist James O'Keefe used a hidden camera to film the meeting, then posted it online. The video records Schiller making several remarks about organizations, including labeling the Republican party as anti-intellectual, calling the Tea Party racists and saying NPR would be better off without government funding.

Many congressional Republicans are taking the last remark quite seriously and have started discussing if NPR needs federal funding. Tim Singleton, general manager of WBAA Radio, is monitoring the discussion closely.

Singleton said WBAA is a member station of NPR, meaning it gets programs from the group.

"We get a lot of programing," Singleton said. "Including some of our most listened to programs like ‘Morning Edition', ‘Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!' and ‘Car Talk'."

If NPR loses federal funding, WBAA knows it will have to increase its funding efforts but many local listeners connect to public radio differently than they would with other forms of media.

Glenn Sparks, professor of communication, said people connect with public radio because of the content and relationship to the university.

"The content ... encourages people to think deeper about the issues than normal media outlets," Sparks said. "Public radio (also) references experts from universities, which may be a function of many stations located in university communities, but that feeds the popularity of that media within the community."

Sparks says people who like WBAA will continue to listen to the station regardless of the scandal.

"If you talk to people who are loyal to WBAA and ask them about the prospect of not having that in their life, they would find it almost un-imaginable," Sparks said.


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