Nostalgic Rumblings
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October 2005
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Why Can’t Public Radio Do This?

Filed under: Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 2:55 pm

For almost two months now, the CBC has been involved in, “a labor dispute.” I’m not going to get into the whole mess, nor am I choosing sides. I’m only annoyed that one of the shows I routinely listen to, As It Happens, is affected.

But that got me to thinking…I’ve complained in this space before about the lack of alternatives to NPR when it comes to news programming, and how I believe pubrad stations have abdicated their responsibilities to the organization they created to the point where this organization, by virtue only of its monopoly, can dictate to its member stations way too much. I’ve urged the other organizations to get off their rear ends and start working in this area (The World is a cute start, but why didn’t PRI have the sense to start a morning version last year, The World This Morning, with Bob Edwards, to act as competition to the more shrill NPR morning show?), but all I hear is how expensive it is to mount such a program. (Yeah, yeah, and NPR itself started with as close to nothing as you can possibly get.)

Here, though, is an example of how to start. Why couldn’t PRI, or APM (the distribution arm of Minnesota Public Radio, you know, what PRI used to be back when it was APR?), or even XM Satellite Radio start a similar weekdaily news program? Better idea; why couldn’t XM and one of the major distributors get together, co-produce the show, and share in the profits selling it to terrestrial pubrad stations while airing it on XM?

Hold on a sec, before you think I’m crazy, this isn’t as nutty as it seems. Think about what As It Happens is…it’s a show where the hosts telephone newsmakers. They don’t fly to Outer Mongolia, they call a satellite phone. They don’t travel to California, they call Arnold on his office phone. They don’t use anything but a telephone, a studio, and enough chutzpa to try to talk to newsmakers, both major and minor.

Ok, I admit it…”cheap” is a relative term. Outside of The Bob Edwards Show, for example, XMPR clearly doesn’t have a whole lot of budget; Scott Walterman needs to borrow Steve Karish from Sonic Theater (Channel 163) to executive-produce XM Nation, and the other exclusive, From the Nation’s Capitol was a co-production which seems to have stopped production anyway and is now burried somewhere on the weekend schedule.

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