I was just in touch with Ira Flatow of Science Friday, and heard that they were facing a funding crisis. According to Ira:
We at SciFri are facing severe financial difficulties, i.e. raising money. NSF [National Science Foundation] has turned us down for continuing funding, saying they love what we do, we are sorely needed, but it's not their job to fund us. At the same time, NPR has said the same thing, telling us that if we want to stay on the air, etc, we now have to raise all our own money. Despite what listeners may think, NPR only gives us about 10 percent of our funding.
Ouch! I think Science Friday is one of the most outstanding radio programs I listen to, and yet it's falling into that familiar market failure gap: it's a social good that nobody thinks they should pay for.
Of course, our local NPR station is trumpeting that they have found a way to sustain journalism. And they seem to have by connecting with their local constituency and asking for financial support (pledge breaks work). But, if you call in to support your local station and say you love SciFri, not much of your pledge filters back to the program.
So, that raises the question of how to keep Science Friday going. They do get some funding from noteworthy science funders (like the Noyce and Sloan foundations), but they will have a challenge replacing the support from the National Science Foundation.
Check out the Science Friday sponsorship/donation page. I pitched in!