Fact-Check: How Much of PBS, NPR Revenue Comes from Government Funding?
Recently, Elon Musk labeled NPR and PBS as “government-funded media” on Twitter, angering both organizations. And while it is well-known that they do receive taxpayer dollars, it is less known just how much of their total budget comes from the government.
Musk was applauded by many last week for adding a note to NPR’s Twitter page stating that NPR is “US state-affiliated media” because some of its funding comes from the federal government.
He later changed that to “government-funded media” to be more precise. A similar notice was appended to the PBS Twitter page.
NPR, which has often been criticized for its left-wing partisan reporting, was incensed by the move.
The broadcaster claimed it is fully independent of the government and practices “fact-based journalism.” It also said it was quitting Twitter over the change to its page. PBS too left the platform.
“While federal money is important to the overall public media system, NPR gets less than 1% of its annual budget, on average, from federal sources,” NPR said on its website.
Musk was unmoved. He maintained that the new label was justified and noted that “NPR literally says Federal funding is *essential* on their website right now.”
NPR literally says Federal funding is *essential* on their website right now at https://t.co/QA8TUZxmNO
What have you got against the truth @NPR? pic.twitter.com/3W0X0MsZYW
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2023
In another tweet, Musk wrote simply, “Defund [NPR].”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2023
So, just how much money does NPR get from government or government-affiliated sources?
As noted above, NPR says only 1 percent of its annual budget comes from federal sources. But according to its own numbers, the broadcaster gets a lot more from government sources than it lets on.
For fiscal year 2020, for instance, the broadcaster’s affiliate stations received 8 percent of their revenue from federal appropriations via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
They also got 10 percent from colleges and universities — which themselves are publicly funded — and another 5 percent from federal, state and local governments. That is 23 percent, not 1 percent.
As Musk pointed out, NPR also states on its website that “federal funding is essential to public radio’s service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.”
For its part, PBS gets even more from government or government-affiliated sources.
On its website, the TV broadcaster says it gets 15 percent of its revenue from the federal government, 13 percent from state governments, 3 percent from local governments, and 8 percent from universities. That’s a total of 39 percent.
Musk is 100 percent correct. Both NPR and PBS receive substantial financial support from government sources, so it is completely fair and accurate to label them “government-funded media.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.