Monday, June 5, 2017


Image courtesy The Boston Globe
Sunday’s Boston Globe has a story that is familiar to people who work in public radio and/or read this blog. 

Check out reporter Mark Arsenault’s article – In well-mannered public radio, an airwaves war [link] – about the competition between Boston’s two NPR News stations WBUR and WGBH. 

Arsenault advances the story and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the people behind the programming at both stations.

Arsenault captures the stakes for WGBH when they decided to challenge WBUR beginning in 2009.

The story begins:

At the time, it seemed like a bold move for a media company. Maybe a stupid one.

Sleepy public radio station WGBH-FM would forsake classical music and jazz programming that had defined it for decades in favor of an all-news and talk format, going head-to-head — or maybe, tote bag to tote bag — against WBUR, the established NPR giant licensed to Boston University.

Mark Arsenault
“It was a bit of a jump off a cliff,” WGBH Radio general manager Phil Redo acknowledged.

Arsenault echoes my observation that the competition between the two stations has increased listening to both stations:

Perhaps the most remarkable part of WGBH’s ascent is that it largely spared its chief rival, steadily building a base without damaging WBUR, or even swiping their monogrammed umbrellas.

I am grateful to Arsenault for making use of my Nielsen Audio weekly listener statistics and crediting my analysis for his report.  This means a lot to me. I publish SPARK! as a public service.  I don’t make a nickel from the blog. Sometimes it is nice to be recognized. Besides, I like seeing my name in The Boston Globe.

Arsenault’s article must have clicked with Globe readers because there were several hundred comments just hour after the story was released. Folks care about public media in Boston.  Here are a couple of their comments:

Comment #1

Boston is REALLY lucky to have two NPR stations of this caliber to listen to. I listen to WBUR and WGBH every day, sometimes all day, switching back and forth for my favorite shows. My all time favorite is GBH's "The Takeaway" with John Hockenberry.

Hockenberry is, in my opinion, a national treasure right up there with Ted Koppel (in his Nightline years). He's a master at dissecting the stories of the day, both serious and humorous, and has a talent for cutting through the typical media bulls##t (even the occasional NPR bulls##t), to get to the heart of the matter.

Of course, if I listen to Hockenberry, I miss WBUR's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrooke, also great programming. Ashbrooke does a great job of bringing out the best in his interviews.

Comment #2:

Why should I pay for copycat programming delivered by WGBH? WGBH offers more local stuff which is Boston centric. Folks in the North and South Shore, Worcester, Providence and Nashua/Manchester really don't care about the Boston City Council's meeting


In May 2016 we reported [link] on WVMO-FM, a gutsy LPFM station that signed on in 2015. It serves the Madison suburb of Monona (population 7,859). WVMO, 98.7 FM [link] is known as the “Voice of Monona.” 

Recently WVMO received half a dozen awards from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.  It is thought to be the first LPFM station in the nation to win multiple honors from a statewide organization. The awards included:

• Best Client Event Promo for “Hoot Hoot Hustle”

• Best Sports Coverage for “Soul of Baseball”

• Best Election Coverage

• Best Use of Audio for the Halloween episode of “Listening to Records Club”

WBA Executive Director Michelle Vetterkind said about KVMO’s trophy-haul:

“It shows everyone how community service and excellent broadcasting go hand-in-hand.”

It also shows the positive power of great mentors. Volunteers at KVMO are guided and inspired by two radio pros, Tom Tueber and Lindsay Wood Davis.

Tom Teuber

If you mention Tom Teuber’s name to folks in the broadcasting and music industries you will hear stories about the great stations he has programmed such as WMET, Chicago, WCMF, Rochester and especially WMMM, Madison. 

You will also hear about people he has hired, mentored and stayed in touch with over a forty-plus-year career.

Lindsay Wood Davis is a Monona resident who has worked with the best commercial and noncom broadcasters in the state.  Last year he was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Davis said about the recognition:

“WVMO has been called, ‘The coolest little station in the nation!’ To be the first LPFM in America to win statewide broadcast awards shows that the City of Monona's ‘community-owned, locally-programmed, volunteer-driven’ radio station can use its unique hyper-local approach to successfully compete with the top stations in the state.”

Well-done and congratulations!

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