Jazz Radio Loses Another Battle
Posted on 7/7/2006at 10:43 AM
Chicago's jazz radio gets the blues, bows to iPod
By Deborah Cohen
Thursday, July 6, 2006; 9:12 AM
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The iPod and a growing need for local news have done the unthinkable: They have cost Chicago, one of America's great jazz cities, its last major source for jazz programming on local radio.
WBEZ, Chicago's National Public Radio (NPR) member station and among the oldest public radio outlets in the United States, has decided to scrap scheduled music programming -- the bulk of which was nightly jazz -- and move to a 24-hour news and public affairs format.
The change -- which has sparked a backlash from loyal fans -- speaks volumes about the worries facing independent radio stations.
Downloadable music and streaming Webcasts are competing for their music listeners, and local news, threatened by consolidation in the commercial media, is taking on greater importance. In addition, WBEZ and many other public radio stations say their programming has not kept pace with a changing U.S. population.
"Local news has simply been abandoned by the commercial broadcasters and sometimes even the commercial newspapers," Ken Stern, executive vice president of Washington-based National Public Radio, told Reuters.
"What you see as a trend is stations like WBEZ investing heavily in local news and information," Stern said.
WBEZ and NPR's other so-called member stations raise their own operating funds -- much of them from individual listeners -- and pay providers such as NPR for syndicated shows such as the daily news program "All Things Considered."
Around the United States, changes similar to WBEZ's are taking place. Connecticut Public Radio's WNPR-FM dropped most of its classical programming in favor of news and information early in June. WETA, another public FM station in Washington, D.C., made the switch to all-talk more than a year ago. Stations in New York, Boston and elsewhere have made similar moves.
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