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Reorganization Planned for NPR Labs

Director Rich Rarey to leave as Labs will now be under corporate division

Rich Rarey

NPR is reorganizing its NPR Labs division, funding it out of the broadcaster’s corporate budget, so it will no longer need to be solely self-supported by grants and other funding such as corporate contracts. This will help ensure the long-term success of NPR Labs, according to a note to staff from NPR VP Technology Operations, Distribution and Broadcast Engineering Marty Garrison.

However the changes come at a cost — Rich Rarey will no longer be director of NPR Labs and is leaving the broadcaster at the end of the month. His position was eliminated as part of the changes, a move Garrison stated was “very difficult.”

Senior Technology John Kean and Technical Researcher Alice Goldfarb remain with NPR Labs, and will now report to Chris Nelson, director of Technology Strategy.

NPR Labs has been part of the Distribution Division, and like the Public Radio Satellite System, was expected to sustain itself. As of Aug. 1, NPR Labs will become part of the Technology & Operations Division.

“The mission and activities of NPR Labs will continue. The scope and ambitions of the contracts underway with NPR Labs will not change, and the group will remain an industry leader in R&D projects such as emergency alert messages for those who are deaf or hard of hearing,” states Garrison in the memo.

Rarey, also a longtime writer for Radio World, had been with NPR 34 years, the last five with NPR Labs. He attained the director position in February upon the retirement of NPR Labs Executive Director Mike Starling, who founded the Labs in October 2005.

Rarey got his start with National Public Radio in 1980 at NPR’s Chicago Bureau as a bureau engineer and technical director. He was the first technical director for “Weekend Edition,” and held that post with “All Things Considered” as well as “Talk of the Nation” and other NPR programs. He co-engineered the first national Dolby Surround FM broadcast for NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” in 1992.

In Washington, Rarey became supervisor of NPR’s master control in 2000, overseeing the systems at the heart of NPR’s audio content intake and control. In 2008 he moved to NPR Labs as manager of Strategic Technology Applications, designing and overseeing key projects including prototyping systems to support access to radio content by those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as listeners with visual impairments.

We had reported in May there were rumors in the industry that NPR Labs was experiencing a funding shortfall.