Thursday, July 28, 2011
I am well and truly vexed to learn that UB has agreed to sell WBFO to WNED. Some years back I was a member of WBFO's Advisory Board, and over the course of my time there I made it my business to educate myself about the history of public broadcasting, public radio and National Public Radio. Buffalo has long been unusual for a city of its size in having both a community-based public broadcasting outlet and a educational institution based station. WBFO's place in the history of public radio is notable: the predecessor to All Things Considered, NPR's signature program was a program developed at WBFO by its then-manager, Bill Siemering called As It Happens. Terri Gross and Ira Flatow, among others, got their start there. I have been unhappy with the programing choices the station has been making for the past three years-- the present General Manager, who had been on loan as an interim GM for a while, cut back on a lot of music programing in favor of multiple rebroadcasts of Car Talk and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, but he also, to his credit, beefed up the local news reporting. Shortly before I was term-limited off the board the chair of WNED came to a meeting and confided that WNED was in a fair amount of financial trouble. He was looking for a way to collaborate with us, but it looked like a poor deal. Times change, I guess. Don Boswell did an amazing job of turning WNED around. WBFO, owned by the University at Buffalo, once had a pretty solid base of financial support, but that's less stable than Kon-Tiki these days, and now UB has sold the license to one of its major community service contributions for a scant $4 million bucks. That just sucks. I suppose part of the problem was that UB doesn't really have a Communications program, so owning a radio station may have seemed peripheral to the business of running a university. I don't see it that way-- I think part of what a university is supposed to do is to serve as an educational resource to the community as a whole, but I can at least understand where the decision comes from.
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Living, as we do, on the border of two states, we can get two different NPR stations. One is supported by a State university and the other by a city/community operation. The latter has much more classical music. The University sponsored station does more talk show stuff. we find it worthwhile to support and to listen to each at different times in the day and we listen to NPR MUCH more than we watch TV.
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