NPR approaches bankruptcy

National Public Radio may face bankruptcy now that a $9.1 million loan to help NPR meet its debts appears to have fallen through. Terms for the loan from the federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) , which allocates funds for public radio and television, were rejected unanimously Monday by the NPR board of directors. Under the agreement, NPR would have been required to hand over title to its satellite equipment as collateral, Monitor correspondent Arthur Unger reports.

NPR's major objection to the change in ownership of the satellite equipment is that it would move the power to control NPR programming one step closer to CPB. Under the CPB proposal, NPR would have a three-year lease on the satellite equipment.

In a letter to CPB president Edward J. Pfister, NPR's acting chief operating officer, Ronald Bornstein, interprets the proposal as an ultimatum with no chance of alternative solutions. The unconditional demand, according to the Bornstein letter, had the effect of breaking off negotiations.

CPB has asked that at least 200 public radio stations guarantee the $9.1 million loan agreement, but on Sunday Mr. Pfister disclosed that 40 to 50 more stations needed to make that guarantee. Some CPB executives feel that NPR is still not recognizing the need for future fiscal responsibility, since past experience indicates loose control of funds.

Meanwhile, some 300 employees in NPR's Washington offices are concerned about the $500,000 Friday payroll, which NPR appears unable to meet. On Aug. 1, NPR is scheduled to receive $1 million in federal appropriations from CPB. Whether or not CPB turns over those funds is a moot question at this point.

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