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New Home for Prairie Home

Fans of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, angry and forlorn since WETA announced yesterday that it is dropping the public radio variety show to make way for its new all-classical format, can break out the rhubarb pie: The show will shift this Saturday to WAMU (88.5 FM), which will air it from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The move is WAMU's first in response to WETA's format switch, but not likely its last, says station spokesman Kay Summers. "Any number of things could happen," she tells me.

The move shifts Hot Jazz Saturday Night one hour later and knocks NPR's All Things Considered off the WAMU Saturday schedule, but Summers says the program changes likely are not finished, and the NPR news magazine may yet find a place earlier in the evening.

WAMU did not learn of WETA's format change until Monday and so had no time to plan program changes to accommodate its new role as the region's only public radio station airing news and talk, as well as acoustic music on weekends.

By Marc Fisher |  January 23, 2007; 1:41 PM ET
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I wouldn't be surprised to see WAMU pick up Bob Edwards Weekend, as well. Now if only some local station would pick up Hearts of Space.....

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 23, 2007 2:29 PM

Great about Prairie Home Companion - the other main concern is Mary Cliff's Traditions program - She was on WETA 30 years - so was never in "competition" with classical music - if fact I am sure many people are big fans of both. Dropping this makes no sense whatsoever - it sure will affect WETA's fundraising!

Posted by: Dean Kauffman | January 23, 2007 2:49 PM

I want to know what I am supposed to do Sunday mornings. I need my weekly Will Shortz puzzle fix!

Posted by: Jon | January 23, 2007 2:55 PM

Ok, so is WAMU going to pick up Mary Cliff's show? I'd hate for the jazz show to get bumped, because I'm all for diversity of music, but I do hope Traditions can find a home. I know an awful lot of angry folk fans who are ready to descend on WETA with pitchforks and torches....

Posted by: h3 | January 23, 2007 2:57 PM

I want to get along so I'll withhold comments about Hearts of Space -- to each his own... What I'd like to know is, why the heck do WETA and WAMU see themselves as competitors? WETA couldn't tell WAMU in advance about the format change? There is a HUGE market for public radio in this area. Stations with much smaller bases coordinate programing and complement each other (for example, KXPR and KXJZ in Sacramento, which play classical and jazz, respectively, while divvying up the NPR news and entertainment programs.

The public TV stations in the SF Bay Area were engaged in a similar war some years back and I never figured out why.

Posted by: can't we all get along | January 23, 2007 3:00 PM

Yes, I totally agree that WAMU should pick up Mary Cliff's "Traditions." Love that show! And not only that, but her show is VERY important to the local music community and arts organizations.

Posted by: Greenbelt Gal | January 23, 2007 3:03 PM

I absolutely agree and support the comments that WETA and WAMU should coordinate their programs. I think that was a main reason so many people were peeved two years ago when WETA turned off the music: their news program stream was largely duplicative, in content, if not in accent (I did like some of the BBC shows--just not all news all the time). I am sorry about Mary Cliff's show, and about Rebecca Roberts' show--two unique, locally produced programs that public radio is supposed to be all about. And The Intersection was just getting up steam. I think a young and gifted journalist like Ms Roberts should be nurtured.

Clearly WETA sees its mission as replacing WGMS's all-music all day format (minus those horrible ads, and with more variety), which is great. I hope WAMU can squeeze in Traditions and the Intersection. As for Garrison's migration, The PHC is more in keeping with WAMU's slightly funky image. Between these two excellent stations, there should be enough time and listener interest to keep both of them strong and thriving. I certainly have no problem switching back and forth--that's what those little buttons are for.

Posted by: Phil | January 23, 2007 3:20 PM

After its "all news" blunder with boring talk-in programs and news overkill, WETA needs to balance music with top quality news/comment presentations. Will WETA be brave and program beyond the standard classics? Let's hear it for the brave, new world of music written after 1920.

Posted by: the listening ears | January 23, 2007 3:31 PM

Alas, with the loss of "Traditions" we now loose the last acoustic folk broadcast in Washington. Our town was once a great place for fans of "organic music" to live. Why must WETA throw the baby out with the bath water?

Public Broadcasting's mission is in part to provide quality programming that is not commercially viable.

Hey, WETA, don't sell out to the commercial mindset! Keep Traditions! Keep Afro-pop Worldwide! Keep the Heart and Soul of PUBLIC Broadcasting alive!

Posted by: Hypatia | January 23, 2007 3:32 PM

Oh for the love of all things holy, DO NOT INTERRUPT ONE MINUTE OF HOT JAZZ SATURDAY NIGHT!!! How else will we hear the story of Mildred Bailey's first failed marriage and her subsequent recording sessions for the parlephone label.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 23, 2007 3:33 PM

Alas, with the loss of "Traditions" we now loose the last acoustic folk broadcast in Washington. Our town was once a great place for fans of "organic music" to live. Why must WETA throw the baby out with the bath water?


Well, the 1970s were also a great time for fans of organic music, but the days of the Emmylou hanging out at Childe Harold are as ephemeral as the Kingston Trio. which is a polite way of saying that unless they're playing Vashti and the modern weird folk revival, that scene has been marginalized by a generation of fans of electronica.

Posted by: Bethesdan | January 23, 2007 3:35 PM

WETA is nuts! Nobody asked for it to go "all" classical. It's been airing Mary Cliff for decades, part of an eclectic mix of weekend programming that balanced its weekday classical programming.

Balanced is the key word here. I also hope there's a home for Bob Edwards Weekend somewhere on the dial. And, jeez, he even came to help WETA in its last fundraiser -- a very popular show considering how recently it was added to their line-up.

Posted by: Rocco | January 23, 2007 3:36 PM

I plan to add my voice (as a longtime member) to the poobahs at WAMU not to shorten or cancel Hot Jazz Saturday Night. If we support quality as well as diversity of programming, then HJSN should have nothing to worry about. Welcome to all the other air-worthy programs, but don't take away the vintage jazz!

Posted by: Joe in Columbia | January 23, 2007 3:38 PM

Joe, I think Hot Jazz Saturday Night is being shifted, not shortened. Going from 7-10 to 8-11 is OK by me. Even though I do like American Routes.

Now, I think Traditions belongs more on WPFW; it's more the granola crowd than WAMU.

Posted by: Bamberger fan | January 23, 2007 3:44 PM

Good move, WAMU. Bring my friend Bob Edwards on board, too. Marketplace Money can be canned along with On The Media (which is podcasted, by the way).

Posted by: Guy Noir, Private Eye | January 23, 2007 3:47 PM

I'm glad "HJSN" isn't being shortened, only shifted. I'm just wondering how I'll now spend the hour in between the end of the Andrea Brey show on WPFW (old school R&B) and the start of Rob Bamberger's program.

Posted by: Vincent | January 23, 2007 3:48 PM

Vincent, take the hour to shower and dress up in vintage menswear and head out to Glen Echo for swing!

Posted by: NJSN | January 23, 2007 3:56 PM

I hope that WAMU picks up Mary Cliff; it would be a good match for its Sunday bluegrass programming, though I could use a bit less of that. And Bob Edwards' show would certainly be a better offering than the two new hours that WAMU recently added to its Saturday afternoons.

But I'm confused about the "deal" between WETA and Bonneville -- why was it even necessary? Did this commit WETA to 24-hour-a-day classical programming? Does anyone need or want 24/7 classical? The "old" WETA once had room for "Songs for Aging Children" as well as "Traditions" as well as "Car Talk." An intellectually stimulating MIX of programming is what public radio listeners want.

Posted by: Gerry | January 23, 2007 3:56 PM

I don't like them messing with Hot Jazz Saturday Nights, even if it's only a shift. It's not clear whether they're cutting American Routes in half. Obviously it's a syndicated program, so they'd have to cut it out in the middle, but WAMU's sunday schedule still has Bluegrass Overnight start at midnight, one hour after American Routes starts. That is unacceptable. The back-to-back of HJSN and American Routes is the best 5 hours of music on the radio, in my book.

Frankly I don't think Prarie Home Companion is worth it. I just can't stand Garrison Keillor.

Posted by: Reid | January 23, 2007 4:05 PM

I expect that the schedule of both WETA and WAMU will evolve over the next year as both stations try to sort out the programming that will give them the optimal schedule for supporters and listeners.

I suspect that WETA will eventually retreat from 24x7 classical an re-introduce some NPR and PRI programming.

I expect WAMU to pick up some of the programing that WETA has dropped. Note, however, that WAMU and WETA had replicated much of each other's programming.

I doubt that WETA will restore All Things Considered, because they can obtain The News Hour feed at no cost.

I expect that Mary Cliff will move to WAMU's HD station.

I have little hope for anyone picking up Hearts of Space. At least I can find it on several web streams.

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 23, 2007 4:21 PM

I like Garrison Keillor...except when he sings. I think he's a fantastic storyteller, the music is fun, I love the show, but holy cow - even if it is his show, someone needs to sit him down and explain that he doesn't sing well enough for primetime. Or sit him down and teach him how to sing. Or something. Anything!

Ok, got that out of my system! I agree, I wish WETA had space in its program schedule for music besides classical, the way it used to. Yes, even for Hearts of Space. You know *somebody* likes that show. (Ok, ok, I kinda liked it myself.) And I love Afro-pop Worldwide!

Posted by: h3 | January 23, 2007 4:23 PM

Well, I'm not enamored by the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, but I think it's imperative that WETA or some other station continue to broadcast them. Else, where (besides subscription radio) will operaphiles go for their periiodic fix?

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 23, 2007 4:31 PM

Mary Cliff and her who's appearing where for every club and closet in a 100 mile radius is something that made me not listen to the show. I never seemed to hear more than one or two songs before she was blatherskiteing for 10 or 15 minutes. How I have missed Dick Cerri for the last 30 years. It would have been easy to put listings on a website and just play music. And this is speaking as a father of a son who plays in a bluegrass band in the local area. Good riddance.

I prefer to listen to the BBC Radio Folk music programming and prefer Archie Fisher, Mike Harding, Genevieve Tudor, and the rest.

WAMU still has Dick Spotswood who is a treasure. HE deserves more time on the air.

Posted by: John | January 23, 2007 4:41 PM

WETA was highbrow, then lowbrow and now maybe uni-brow. Think eclectic. The metro audience certainly is that. Classical, jazz, Traditions, Hot Jazz, Hearts of Space and All Things Considered and Bob Edwards. Please consider some of the fine on-air personalities from WGMS. They brought a real life to radio. Glad that WAMU is picking up Prairie Home Companion and I agree with all who wished WAMU will pick up Mary Cliff. I also propose a money saving idea for WETA; fire the numbnuts that pushed the idea of all news.

Posted by: Mike in Takoma Park | January 23, 2007 5:24 PM

Does anyone else feel deceived by WETA fundraising? I renewed my membership this month in response to the letter I received asking for my continued support of their valued "news and information" programming -- no mention about the impending change. I fell for it and sent them a check. I don't have anything against classical music, but I definitely don't like being deceived by fundraisers. I want my money back!

Posted by: Tom | January 23, 2007 5:27 PM

I think WETA blew it. I too feel ripped off. I sent them a (small) contribution because I listened to WESUN. They could have created a balanced mix with a heck of a lot of classical and kept some of the unique, non-duplicative programming like WESUN and Bob Edwards. Oh well.

Posted by: Larry | January 23, 2007 5:37 PM

I also would not have made my year-end contribution to WETA had I known about the format change. Some programming may have been duplicative, but I actively listened to both WAMU and WETA. Already this morning, I missed WETA as I chomped on my Cheerios to a static-y WAMU.

I like a little classical, but I have XM for that.

Posted by: Lori | January 23, 2007 6:07 PM

I've never liked WAMU--a poor excuse for a university station, in my opinion, plus I just can't stand Diane Rheam--even before her vocal troubles.

Now I have to replace my WETA button with WAMU for my Morning Edition fix? Also, I'm a WETA weekend junkie, and WAMU's weekend SUCKS A BANJO!!!! Guess I'll go back to Sirius, or try to find all those syndicated shows on podcasts.

I think Mary Cliff, who is a lovely person, and plays wonderful music, but talks entirely too much, could possibly go to WTMD/WAMU2. Pretty good signal there. She could go to WRNR but that signal only covers the eastern part of the metro area.

Posted by: dynagirl | January 23, 2007 6:11 PM

I'm blown away by WETA's total abandonment of Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Prairie Home Companion. Not sure how they think they'll increase money from fund raising without those. I now have zero reason to listen to them. I don't mind the switch back to classical because I just don't listen to talk radio. But with their only news being hourly newscasts and Lehrer's Newshour, I have a hard time believing they'll do anything but lose a huge chunk of their audience.

Thank goodness WAMU's picking up PHC!

Posted by: Ryan | January 23, 2007 6:58 PM

Mary Cliff is a treasure. And her "Who's Where" segment is invaluable for promoting local performances of independent music. She belongs on WETA on Saturday nights. I hope they come to their senses soon.

Posted by: Phil K | January 23, 2007 7:16 PM

Mary Cliff was boring. She sounded like she was doing paperwork between song sets. Dick Cerri CARED about the music. I miss "Music Americana," and if WETA fit him and Oscar Brand on somewhere (even in repeats), I would be happy.

Meanwhile, we have WAMU. We don't need a clone of it, and even the BBC programming WETA carried was the watered-down dreck, and not worth hearing. If you want better foreign programming, hear Radio Nederlands on Washington Post Radio.

Posted by: Greg | January 23, 2007 9:33 PM

Since I learned that WETA's board is chaired by John Hechinger, who ran a great Washington business into the ground, I have not been surprised by the poor quality of decision making by WETA. Competing head-to-head with WAMU for talk was doomed to failure. Much as I want classical music programming, just dumping long time popular shows--e.g., Mary Cliff, Garrison Keilor--without any concern for their listeners is irresponsible. Very sad.

Posted by: Marc | January 23, 2007 10:57 PM

I'd like to see WETA take a page from the book of WXXI in Rochester, NY--great classical music (which, in my opinion is an essential format for a radio listening area) but with a good mix of eclectic music on the weekends.

Posted by: Jessie | January 24, 2007 9:16 AM

Am I really supposed to believe that WAMU was unprepared for winning the Great Washington Public Radio Cold War?

Don't they read the Post over there? The story about WETA's surrender has been kicking around for months.

Regardless, the listeners of free radio are the victors--except for the lame George format Bonneville is now slapping up.

Wouldn't it be amazing if some commercial outlet in this market actually ignored the bland consultant-based programming and tried something creative and stimulating. There's not even a station around here that would play a Sinatra record at this point. I guess he wasn't too popular or talented.

Posted by: Pedro | January 24, 2007 12:16 PM

Ugh to the idea that WAMU's decision to take the gaseous Prairie Home Companion and cut American Routes by an hour. American Routes is a treaure, providing the listener with something new. The Powder Mill Biscuits are stale...

Posted by: Annandale Listener | January 24, 2007 1:44 PM

WETA has made itself into a typical college town FM station without half trying. There's little adventure in programing so far, and of course Mary Cliff who has sustained me with her music through thick and thin and much much listening pleasure (way back to when she was on in the afternoons) was discarded. Mary deserves better, and I sincerely believe she will find a home on the radio -- which is where I will keep my dial turned. I love WETA and the on-air talent, but something's not right with the station management.

WETA has NEVER been a one-note station, and it is now. Mrs. Campbell must be rotating rapidly. I think the people who kept crying about bringing back the classical music had no idea that it would mean Mary Cliff and PHC would be gone.

I found it ironic that vocal music, which never had much of a place at WETA (remember poor Fred Calland?), was what survived the format change of 2 1/2 years ago. The Metropolitan Opera has a wonderful place at WETA, so why not Mary Cliff? She is classy, and certainly a class act. Mary is a national treasure. We can't lose her and her program.

Not one person who knows I volunteer at the station and who bitched at me about the loss of classical music has EVER given penny one to WETA, and won't now. The crop of current classical listeners/ contributors are mostly older than I (60+) and won't be around forever. We are not teaching music appreciation in the schools any more, or taking field trips to the symphony, etc., so where will their successors come from? We are bordering on fostering elitism here. I feel more than betrayed and bereft. I am beyond that. I will keep volunteering because I believe in radio itself, and in public radio, but now I also have to join WAMU, and that pisses me even more.

PS -- Hearts of Space was also known as "music to rolph by" or "elevator music from Hell" -- I'd like to see Millennium of Music back along with Pipe Dreams, which featured pipe organs. Afro-Pop Worldwide was always a joy.

Posted by: Sandy Rangel | January 25, 2007 2:45 PM

I welcome the developments as they have unfolded so far.

I was very disappointed when WETA dropped music as a main portion of its airtime, and I've often thought that the duplicative news from WAMU and WETA was a waste.

Apparently, WAMU wasn't warned of WETA's change to almost purely "fine" music. Since then, they've been rearranging and acquiring shows, from what I understand in order to fill the gap.

I think that in the long run, a donor-based talk channel and a donor-based music channel is a win for our area.

In the short run, there are bumps.

I do hope that Traditions can be picked up by one or the other station. I don't think it is wise for WETA to go exclusively classical, and I hope that whatever wacky deal they have struck with Bonneville International Corp. allows them sufficient room to build back the non-classical aspects of their former lineup. They have plenty of air time that was formerly occupied by NPR news.

If I had my druthers, WETA would own music and entertainment/variety (e.g. Prairie Home Companion), while WAMU would own talk and news. I think that's the balance that may be struck in the long run.

One thing's for certain, it was a pleasant surprise for me to find classical music back on WETA when I was sick of listening to WAMU's pledge drive during my commute.

Let's all hope that these two stations can begin to carve out some sensible way of dividing our market in a way that maximizes the value of their frequencies. Duplicating NPR news was pathetic.

I'm optimistic for now.

P.S. If this in any way results in less bluegrass, then I'm going to start a campaign to bring them all down to their knees.

Posted by: Stuart | February 8, 2007 6:26 PM

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