Happy Meal Ticket


Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, bequeathed $200 million to National Public Radio.

I look forward to the new NPR taglines, "Brought to you by multinational greed and wanton disregard for human health," appended to the latest six-part series on sub-standard footwear among Guatemalan coffee pickers.


NEXT: Free To Be You And Me

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  1. Grummum: Close, though the McDonald brothers were two white guys who moved from New Hampshire to California and opened a wide variety of gimmick restaurants, including an orange-shaped juice stand. They sold exclusive franchising rights to Ray Kroc in 1954 and he bought them out for $2.7 million in 1961.


  2. “Which leads to the question, what happens when coporations want to advertise to people who are more or less defined ideologically by their opposition to corporations?”

    Sure, it’s simple when you split it along ideological lines. But the fact is most people don’t think in terms of ideological purity. I listen to NPR frequently for my daily dose of intelligence, for programs such as Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, and Symphony Shorts – something you’re not likely to get off of PRN. The only time when I found them militantly biased and liberal left was during Iraq War II when they were pumping in the BBC. I know many people across the political spectrum who listen to NPR for the same reasons. They’re not opposed to corporations per se – they’re opposed to abuse of position and power, wherever they find it.

    Strangely enough, NPR’s On the Media did a story about this very subject a year or so ago, focusing on liberal leftists and moderates who criticized corporate America and yet still did business with them. The story focused on Chumbawumba, who sold rights to one of their songs to GM – after spending years criticizing GM’s stance on environmental issues. Chumbawumba was more than happy to accept the money (which they donated to political activism groups). GM was more than happy to pay them for the song (I think it was “Tubthumping”), which had instant recognition with the younger crowd GM’s ads were targeting. A simple case of good business trumping ideological purity.

  3. “It’s everything else NPR produces that I see as displaying bias.”

    Every program I’ve heard on NPR provides plenty of air time for conservatives to air their views. Without interruption, yelling, mikes being cut off or any of that other tomfoolery. The only exception I can think of is Gross’ interview of Bill O’Reilly, where she really attacked him. But at least he was given the chance to respond in full to all allegations (and showed himself to be a pompous ass in the process). I can see a problem in principle with publically funded media, but not because of a liberal slant.

  4. This is up there with B & M Gates Foundation donating a bagillion to NYC public schools.

    Some day, these guys may figure out that messing too much with the goose may be counterproductive.

  5. One might take some comfort from the prospect that at least NPR would refrain from airing the anti-junk food propaganda that would otherwise have replaced the anti-tobacco propaganda, but I suppose it’s too much to expect NPR not to bite the hand that feeds it.

  6. Somehow I think that this criticism is more of a sign of jealousy than anything. You folks are still annoyed about the whole threesome issue. 🙂

  7. Dow this mean that we reduce their public funding?

  8. Well, maybe now NPR’s gotten enough independence to turn around and properly hose their former dirty money gravy train: the soybean price-fixing, government-official-bribing, ethanol-subsidy-guzzling, “ADM, Supermarket to the World/Nature of what’s to come”.

  9. Joe Scarborough crapped his pants last night! He was left speechless by the NPR gift, all he could do was rail CBS for the Reagan miniseries.

  10. What an asshole comment. NPR is taking donations from private funds, the optimal situation, and Mr. Taylor decides to take a swipe at what he perceives as biased and irrelevant coverage. Well, I, for one, hope that people take a cue from Mrs. Kroc. I would hate to think the BBC was my only source of much of the unpopular news that occurs in this country.

  11. Okay, carpers, I put it to you: If NPR is to get off the public tit, which it very nearly is already (Fair disclosure dictates I mention I do commentary and some fund raising for my local NPR affiliate, KUNI-FM in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Right now, public financing accounts for around 22% of our operating costs and capital expenses.) and accepting corporate underwriters is also considered dicey, exactly how is it supposed to fund itself? Individual donations and subscriptions are great, and they go a long way toward supporting what I consider to be one of the better, certainly the most coherent and throughtful, news organizations around.

    Certainly some programs and some personalities connected with NPR can be viewed as “biased” one way or other, but who cares? You want fair and balanced, watch two news programs or read a couple of papers.

    As for public television, Pioneer Hi-Bred, now a DuPont Company, underwrites a farm program called Market to Market that regularly features stories about organic and other niche-market, high-value farming operations whose success is contrary to the needs and desires of larger agribusiness concerns like Pioneer. This is only one example of how corporate underwriting, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily bias coverage.

    You want NPR off the government tit, so do I. That evil 1 to 2 percent of its overall expenses that come out of the public trough is a hideous drain on us all. Don’t tie its hand by suggesting it can’t go to corporate underwriters either. Like it or not, that’s where the money is.

  12. Good points, Jeff.

    Still, you have to admit, the idea of NPR funded by the Golden Arches does have a lot hilarious overtones.

  13. Let them pay for the frequencies too, like everyone else. See how far the 200 million goes when they have to do that.

  14. Jeff Clothier:

    I don’t think anyone is lambasting them for taking corporate money. The only comment that might be interpretted that way was the one about ADM, and I think that was more of a swipe at ADM than at NPR. Just a few days ago there was an uproar over who was funding the Reason Foundation. I personally am fine with private funding, whether it is through individuals or corporations.

  15. True enough, Todd, hilarious indeed. Almost as funny as the “Trojan Man” ads on MTV.

    As to the frequencies – They are not legitimately the government’s to vend. The electromagnetic spectrum is a fact of nature. The government neither created it, nor has any legitimate claim on any part of it. “The public airwaves” is a myth. The real answer there is to eliminate the scam of broadcast licensing altogether.

  16. Joe M. – Point taken. I get a little sensitive with the knee-jerk anticorporatism around here. Libertarians, of all people, should respect the private sector and realize that there is a qualitative difference between a legitimate businessperson and a crook or politician masquerading as a businessperson.

  17. “The real answer there is to eliminate the scam of broadcast licensing altogether.”

    Maybe, my point is that their claim of only getting a one or two percent subsidy is bullcrap when all the other broadcasters have to fork over hard cash to get on the air.

  18. “Joe M. – Point taken. I get a little sensitive with the knee-jerk anticorporatism around here.”

    I think it’s more making fun of NPR’s knee-jerk anticorporatism.

  19. mmmm……cheesburger and fries…..

  20. Josh,

    You may be right, but personally, I don’t see a lot of untoward anticapitalism at NPR. Granted, I am only partially involved with development in a local station, but most folks involved with NPR are too savvy to actively bite that hands which feed, or to appear too pandering toward those same hands.

    For every story about the evil Recording Industry Association of America suing college students, there’s a story about an Apple Computer making single tracks cheaply, easily and legitimately available via the Apple Music Store and ITunes. As far as fair and balanced reporting goes, as well as detailed and in-depth as opposed to sound-nibbles and bilious ranting, NPR does a better job than most IMHO.

  21. I’m all for private underwriting. Let NPR survive as any other charity survives – through willing donations.

    What I have never been able to understand is their insistence that they are somehow unsullied by bias. If it is bias inducing to take money from money from the private sector, it must also be bias to take money from the government. Besides, as Jeff C. points out, they have been taking money from the private sector for years.

    The only cure for bias is intelligent listeners. A good treatment might be diverse contributors, if you are worried about it. I personally think the whole who pays for what ‘payola’ argument is among the most overused in public discourse these days.

    Surely Raimondo has something to add …

  22. Question: If Warren Buffett died and left his squzzilions of bucks to Reason Magazine, would Reason turn it down, seeing as how many of Warren’s views, such as his take on the estate tax, are pretty New Dealish?

  23. Jeff,

    I think that if Buffett were to leave , squizillions was it, to Reason or RPPI, he would more or less be demonstrating that he is not New Dealish at heart.

    Which leads to the question, what happens when coporations want to advertise to people who are more or less defined ideologically by their opposition to corporations? If you underwrite liberal programming (I am making an assumption there, I know) you are shooting yourself in the foot to get a hypocritical customer (i.e. he who complains about corporations but still buys from them and can be influence by their advertising).

    A strange phenomenon, no?

  24. Jason – Again, good points. I would point out, though that it isn’t NPR that waves the “Fair and Balanced” banner at every opportunity. I personally have never heard them make any claims at all for “balance” per se. I’m not even sure if pure, dispassionate reporting is desireable, or even possible. Reading AP or UPI headlines off a teletype or the net is as close to “We report. You decide.” as one can get – and about as boring as one can imagine.

  25. As someone who has done fundraising, I can only answer that at some point practicality wins out over ideological purity, for the same reason a father of several hungry children will go to work every day at a job he hates with people he despises – because he has to, and because the value to him of his and his families survival trumps the value of total disassociation with people he can’t stand.

  26. To clarify, a company will look for bucks wherever it can, and a nonprofit that depends on contributions even moreso. That is one reason why investing in “socially-responsible” companies, for example, is a dicey business at best, and leads, inevitably, to hypocracy. There simply ain’t no such animal.

  27. This is a crock, pardon the pun. It wasn’t a corporate donation, it was a private donation from an individual who happened to be a big fan of NPR. As far as we know there are no strings attached; the money is NPR’s regardless of what kind of coverage they choose to do.

    Damn, I like Reason, but sometimes you guys don’t live up to your name.

  28. Mark, good point, and one I entirely missed. I agree completely.

  29. Query: How did a man with the surname Kroc own a place named McDonald’s? Why isn’t it named Kroc’s?


  30. I’m sure Mr. Taylor realizes that NPR taking private funds is the optimal situation. He’s just having a bit of fun with the idea of NPR taking recieving donations from the type of person who is anathema to their audience.

  31. I believe Mr. Kroc bought franchise rights from a burger stand called McDonnald’s (which, presumably, was owned by a McDonnald).

  32. The real issue here is, since NPR now has more money than they know what to do with (seriously, read the article), will they stop accepting gov’t. money? If not, why not?

    The only reason to continue accepting federal funds when they don’t need it is if they gov’t media is better than independent media. Hmm…

  33. Ray Kroc made the money, and Joan preferred to give it away to crunchy causes. As I understand it, they were two different people with opposing outlooks.

    Yes it is a bequest of cash, not MCD stock, so NPR isn’t faced with a traditional conflict of interest, more a conflict of principle. But tainted money spends just as well…

    And, no Jean Bart, I’m not jealous. NPR types are not my first choice for threesome partners.

  34. As I understand it: The McDonald brothers were two black men who started a hamburger stand. Ray Crock was a marketing man who saw the potential, bought the McDonald brothers out, and proceeded to make a squizillion dollars.

    With regard to NPR’s bias: their hard news probably leans less to the left than Fox does to the right, although I occasionally find myself screaming at the radio. It’s everything else NPR produces that I see as displaying bias. The fuzzy “dissappearing wilderness” or “downtrodden masses” stories that usually run at 10 before the hour on ‘All Things Consisdered’. The smarmy “aren’t we clever” leftist jokes on ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’. I will not even start on Terri Gross. While some of that is ‘entertainment’ programming, the shows are staffed and hosted by the same people who do the ‘news’. And while they have every right to express their opinions, I object to paying for it, even a little. On that point, Jeff, you are to be commended for wishing to divorce yourself from public funding. I wonder, does Kevin Klose feel the same way? Say, the DNC is looking for a radio network, maybe there’s an opportunity here… ha ha.

  35. “…sub-standard footwear among Guatemalan coffee pickers” Ah, little people with their little problems. Try, mass graves for union organizers.

    I guess that’s not nearly as important as getting a rude letter because you downloaded half the Who catalogue for free.

    And some people say libertarians don’t care about people’s suffering.

  36. It sounds like many presume that $200 mill from any other org. or company would be untainted. Thinking, which is text book for a pseudo-intellectual, but not for a qualified participant. Who would you rather the money go to? Back to McD’s or into someting as worthy as NPR? A chance for the funds to redeem themselves from a shady past.

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