NPR chief resigns amid controversy

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 9, 2011 12:55pm EST

Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR), participates in the ''The Future of Journalism: Who's Going to Report the News?'' panel at the 2010 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR), participates in the ''The Future of Journalism: Who's Going to Report the News?'' panel at the 2010 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California April 28, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Phil McCarten

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of National Public Radio resigned on Wednesday after the organization's chief fund-raiser was secretly videotaped criticizing conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs its government funding.

The resignation of president and chief executive officer Vivian Schiller came as Republicans in Congress, some of whom have long opposed what they see as NPR's liberal bias, were targeting public broadcasting as an area for budget cuts.

On Tuesday, senior fund-raising executive Ron Schiller, no relation to the CEO, quit after being taped making disparaging remarks about members of the conservative Tea Party movement during a private lunch with conservative activists posing as potential donors.

A statement from the chairman of the NPR board of directors, Dave Edwards, said the news of Vivian Schiller's departure coincided with "a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community."

Edwards' statement said the board accepted her resignation "with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership." NPR's media reporter, however, sent a tweet saying that Schiller was forced out by the board.

NPR has been campaigning to retain its federal funding as Congress seeks deep cuts in many areas to address a huge budget deficit.

NPR says only about two percent of its revenue comes from federal funding, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and federal agencies like the Departments of Education and Commerce.

NPR's biggest revenue share comes from program fees and dues paid by member stations that broadcast NPR programs. But the member stations are heavily reliant upon funding from federal and state governments as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and many are financially threatened.

NPR drew fierce criticism from some conservative media and Republican critics last year when it abruptly fired news analyst Juan Williams, who was also a commentator for FOX news, after he made controversial comments about Muslims.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by David Storey)