At the same time executives and hosts at Boston’s WGBH were getting big salary hikes and bonuses, the heads of the taxpayer-funded Public Broadcasting Service and hosts at National Public Radio were also raking in fat paychecks and six-figure bonuses, records show.
The CEO of PBS, Paula Kerger, took in nearly $900,000 a year in the 2015 fiscal year, while a dozen executives and staffers at NPR — including well known on-air hosts — topped $300,000 a year in publicly funded compensation, according to their IRS filings.
The top executives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which hands out taxpayer-funded grants to stations such as WGBH, were also paid handsomely, with CEO Patricia De Stacy Harrison getting $418,574 in compensation, including a nearly $100,000 bonus, according to CPB’s IRS report for 2015.
CPB also lets its top executives and board members fly in style. Its travel policy allows board members and officers to fly business class or first class for flights exceeding three hours, according to records.
The high salaries and perks could give extra scrutiny to CPB at a crucial time for the nonprofit organization, which is federally funded and hands out tens of millions of dollars to local stations such as WGBH.
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting entirely, a move that public broadcasting advocates say would be devastating to affiliates that broadcast NPR programming.
But records reviewed by the Herald show that many public broadcasting organizations aren’t cutting back when it comes to paying their leaders.
The Herald reported last week that Jonathan Abbott, the CEO of WGBH, earned $625,000 in fiscal year 2016, including an $85,000 bonus. Radio and TV host Jim Braude made $364,000 in total compensation.
Abbott and Braude aren’t far behind their colleagues at the national public media outlets.
Kerger, the head of PBS, got a total of $892,972 in compensation in the 2015 fiscal year. That includes a $187,200 bonus, according to records.
Some of the highest publicly funded salaries in public broadcasting were handed out to on-air personalities on National Public Radio, according to records reviewed by the Herald. “Weekend Edition” host Scott Simon received $433,456 in total compensation in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, including a $30,000 bonus, according to the latest IRS filings by NPR.
“Morning Edition” host Steven Inskeep got $413,751 in total compensation, while his former co-host, Renee Montagne, got more than $420,000 in fiscal year 2015. And Peter Sagal, host of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” took in $395,185, helped along by a $62,000 bonus.
The chief content officer at NPR, Kinsey Wilson, was the highest paid executive, topping out at more than $570,000, including a bonus of nearly $148,000, according to IRS records.
A total of 25 executives and staffers at NPR topped the $200,000 a year mark in 2015, according to records.
Even smaller NPR affiliates handed out big salaries. The head of New Hampshire Public Radio, Elizabeth Gardella, received $263,430 total compensation in 2015, according to that station’s IRS filing.
At the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 16 staffers and executives got more than $200,000 a year in compensation, including CIO Vincent Curren, who earned $382,763, and general counsel J. Westwood Smithers, who got $370,815, according to IRS filings.
Media watchdogs say the bonuses and six-figure salaries don’t help the causes of public media organizations trying to stave off Trump-ordered budget cuts.
“It certainly makes the case that these guys aren’t exactly rubbing quarters together,” said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center.
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