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Radio Wars--How A Baltimore Public Station Plans to Crush Washington's Last College Voice

Public radio's genteel, mellifluous image masks the sometimes vicious battles that are waged off the air. Today's Listener column explores the ongoing attempt by Baltimore's WYPR to expand its signal into Washington's Maryland suburbs, where the radio station run by students at the University of Maryland happens to use the same space on the dial where WYPR resides.

The students at WMUC appear to be plain out of luck; they're unprotected by the FCC. Their only appeal is to public pressure, and they're supported in that effort by an impressively loyal group of station alumni, from NPR's Jay Kernis to Comcast Sports' Chick Hernandez to TV talk host Connie Chung. But the Baltimore station is intent on reaching into the Washington area, and the fact that its programming would largely duplicate (triplicate, really) that of WAMU and WETA is just one more sign of the sickness at the heart of public radio--an increasingly thorough and self-destructive trend toward putting the same, often-excellent National Public Radio and Public Radio International programming on stations that formerly offered distinctive local programming.

Public radio's decision by and large to move into news and talk programming instead of the jazz, classical, bluegrass and other locally-produced music programs that had been the primary reason for such stations to exist has come at exactly the worst possible moment for the future of public radio. The more public stations turn into a relay for All Things Considered and Morning Edition, the more listeners are driven to pay, satellite radio, where they can find the many forms of music that no longer exist on free, broadcast radio.

By Marc Fisher |  March 5, 2006; 8:55 AM ET
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Great story

Posted by: Too Conservative | March 6, 2006 11:38 PM

I, for one, want to hear WYPR. More public radio diversity, I say.

Let WMUC move one or two megahertz up or down; 87.9 is a good start.

Posted by: Bigg | March 8, 2006 9:33 AM

I'm also puzzled by why we need to hear Morning Edition in stereo... stereo... stereo every day, much as I love it.

I thought ex-FCC chief Michael Powell's plan to allow companies to buy three or four commercial TV stations was an awful idea because, after all, how many reruns of "Just Shoot Me" do I need to see in a day? But I have to say that duopoly/triopoly management seems to make perfect sense in public radio if they're intent on duplicating 60% of each other's programming.

Posted by: Ben | March 9, 2006 8:50 PM

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