National Public Radio yesterday predicted a deficit of $9.1 million for fiscal year 1983, more than half its proposed operating budget for next year, and immediately asked officials of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for financial assistance.
In public broadcasting circles, it was widely discussed that NPR representatives had used the possibility of bankruptcy as a bargaining tool with CPB. Donald Mullally, the NPR board member who was appointed interim chairman after Myron Jones was forced to resign Tuesday, said, "Anything is a possibility. It is no secret that this company is a very sick one financially. Unless there's substantive improvement in a cash position, its ongoing viability is in question. But we didn't go to bargain with CPB but to explain our situation to them."
Concern over NPR's financial troubles continued on Capitol Hill yesterday. More than 100 House members sent a letter to Bornstein, Mullally and Sharon P. Rockefeller, president of the CPB board, warning that the ongoing budget and staff problems "could severely impair the ability of NPR to continue producing the exceptional programs Americans have come to expect."
The letter, organized by Rep. Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.) and signed by both Republicans and Democrats, continued: "We are very disturbed to hear reports that some people have been suggesting drastic steps, such as dismantling NPR's national organization."
Inside the NPR newsroom yesterday, reaction to the news had one bright, but ironic, moment. Clem Taylor, one of the reporters fired in layoffs, won the office pool. He hit the $9.1 million on the nose. But instead of money, he will receive a collage of photocopies of the business cards of the former NPR financial managers, designed by Jay Kernis, a senior producer.