Wednesday, February 13, 2008


As a public radio fan, I try to catch as much programming as my work and family will allow. Mostly this entails listening to "Morning Edition" in the shower or "All Things Considered" during the last hour of work. On the weekends I try to listen to "Car Talk", "Wait, Wait" and "This American Life" on Buffalo's NPR hub, WBFO. "Fresh Air" and "On The Media" are also on my radar.

All of these programs are produced at different affiliates and syndicated around the country, leaving local stations to schedule them as they wish. Since these syndicated programs only fill up to 12 hours a day sometimes, the locals have to subsidize this with their own shows. This is where I usually tune out. WBFO fills up most of its own slots with jazz music, which I'm okay with. It is usually a good selection with minimal DJ commentary. On the weekends, the station fills in with blues shows which I'm not crazy about. Most of the artists seem to be middle aged guys who make bland, can't tell them apart type of blues music. South Florida was loaded with these acts. Wasn't crazy about them then, and certainly not now. (Though the Dillengers from Palm Beach County were pretty damn fun. And they played original tunes from time to time.)

What bugs me about WBFO (and the local NPR affiliates in South Florida) was that these stations were run from colleges and universities but seemed to offer little if no programming input from the students. I realize that most subscribers who keep these stations afloat probably don't listen to the Pixies or Spoon, but I'd imagine that there are some interns at these stations that have something to offer. I was spoiled in Columbia, Missouri by a local affiliate that played jazz, blues, alt-country, college and classical.

WBFO gets to me when they pre-empt "Fresh Air" with their "Meet The Author" series, a show modeled after...."Fresh Air". I don't mind that they produce the show. I mind that they get you used to a program at a certain time and then give you something else. It is shrewd marketing, but it nags the shit out of me. Turns me off immediately. WBFO's listener commentaries find me tuning out as well. The authors of these seem to be trying to nail down the way NPR commentators talk as opposted to, you know, writing pieces with substance. Gag me with a Baxter Black clone.

Lately, WBFO has turned a new leaf. They're offering "Buffalo Avenues" on Friday nights at 8pm. The show captures live performances and interviews with alternative and rap groups from the region. No pretense. No bullshit. It is what it is. And I like it. They've also begun airing a second stream of music on HD radio and online. It seems to be modeled after XPN in Philadelphia (home of "World Cafe") and even borrows live performances from that station.

In another note, they've begun playing "This American Life" four times over Saturday and Sunday. Not a bad start, though they shouldn't brag too much about being the only station in the country to play the program this much. "TAL" has over 10 years of episodes to play, but WBFO has chosen to repeat the same episoded over consecutive weekends. I known they're trying to hit as many listeners as they can, but they should know that a show this popular will have fans that will listen to four different episodes in a weekend.

I'll give them a thumb up for trying new things, and maybe even a hand in pulling their head out of their keister a little further...


Anonymous said...

"They've also begun airing a second stream of music on HD radio and online"

And, no one is listening to the HD Radio scam:

Galoot said...

To be honest, I listen primarily to terrestrial radio, streaming radio and satellite in that order. Most of the terrestrial stuff is syndicated with a helping of a local talk show and the Buffalo sports station thrown in. The Jamestown stations don't do much for me, though I listen to "Bob and Tom" on 103.1 and Le Show on WRFA.

princess slea said...

monkey and i love to drive somewhere on sundays JUST so we can listen to public radio. I realize we could listen to it inside the house but it's just not the same.