Iowa Public Radio maintains services despite elimination of state funding

By: - June 1, 2022 4:28 pm

The Iowa Legislature eliminated state funding for Iowa Public Radio in next year's budget. (Photo by Katherine Kealey/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Public Radio anticipates a tight budget but no major impact on programming for listeners despite the Legislature’s move this year to eliminate state support from the program, its executive director said Wednesday.

Republican legislators voted to eliminate $345,000 in state support for Iowa Public Radio. The Iowa Board of Regents also halted funding the stations as budget restraints emerged from the pandemic in 2020. The Regents’ cut amounted to $875,000 making up 10% of the Iowa Public Radio’s budget.

Rep. Eric Gjerde, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, protested the change during debate of House File 2575 during the final hours of the legislative session.

“One hundred percent of the (state) funding for Iowa Public Radio goes away,” he said. “I don’t know about you all, but I know about my family, and how we value Iowa Public Radio.”

Iowa Public Radio is a state radio station, Gjerde said. “And once this piece of legislation passes, it will be a state radio station that no longer receives public funds.”

Myrna Johnson, IPR executive director, told Iowa Capital Dispatch she does not anticipate any cuts to staff or in programming because of the reductions.

“I think we are going to have to be budgeting very tightly this next year but we are hoping not to have major impacts on the services that our listeners hear,” Johnson said.

Iowa Public Broadcasting received an annual allocation from the state general fund for operations and money for updating equipment and broadcasting towers. The station also receives money from donors.

The Iowa Board of Regents created Iowa Public Radio in 2004 to manage the public radio groups of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa. Iowa Public Radio serves over 200,000 listeners across 26 stations in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, with over $11 million in assets.

As public funding for broadcasting has dwindled across the country, Johnson said Iowa Public Radio has examined how other radio stations managed reduced funding from state universities to prepare for this shift.

“We have been making this transition over time,” Johnson said. “We have been managing these stations for 15 years and this is in many ways a logical next step.

Johnson said the station has always focused on fundraising. Over 75% of Iowa Public Radio’s funding comes from individuals, businesses and corporations. It also receives a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Our goal is to provide an excellent public radio service to the state, so the transition is just a part of ensuring that there is a strong public radio network here in Iowa,” Johnson said.

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She served as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in 2022.