Changes to WFIU’s opera programming drawing criticism
‘Metropolitan Opera’ live show dropped in favor of talk shows; ‘World of Opera’ added
June 30, 2013
WFIU’s news and music schedule is changing in July — “The Metropolitan Opera” will be removed from its Saturday afternoon schedule and “World of Opera” will be added on Sunday evenings. It’s a change one member of the station’s community advisory board who’s also a music critic calls “deplorable.”
Programming will change starting next weekend — most notably Saturday afternoon’s live at the Met opera programming is being replaced by “World of Opera,” which is scheduled to air from 6 to 10 p.m. each Sunday evening, according to an updated WFIU program guide.
Station operations director Will Murphy said that Saturday morning listenership for the public radio station starts strong, with popular shows including “Weekend Edition,” “Car Talk” and “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”
“Around 1 o’clock, it drops off. I’ve seen that data again and again at the stations I’ve worked at,” Murphy said, adding he wants to continue the momentum of Saturday morning into the afternoon, while still providing opera on Sunday evenings with “World of Opera.”
Peter Jacobi, a member of WFIU’s community advisory board and a music critic for The Herald-Times, disagrees with the station’s decision to lose the Met opera programming. He says there are certainly members of the Bloomington community who absolutely love opera.
“The station is not there simply to get the most listeners at every hour of every day,” Jacobi said.
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He called it “deplorable” to suggest that “Car Talk,” and other talk shows, are more important because they draw larger audiences.
“This isn’t what a university FM station is supposed to be about. There’s got to be some class. And class comes in different forms,” Jacobi said. “And I have nothing against talk shows here or there. But we have talk shows everywhere. How many talk shows do we need?”
The switch also helps with logistical problems that are unique for “The Metropolitan Opera,” Murphy said.
“They are adamant about when you can air their broadcast,” Murphy said. “You have to carry it live. And that presents a large number of logistical problems.”
Operas can run long. And as the Met’s season runs just six months of the year, the remaining shows have been pulled from a Chicago syndicate to fill those gaps.
“So our hope is we’re going to be going into the “World of Opera,” and they’re not just pulling from the United States, but from all over the world,” Murphy said of the diversity of opera selection.
Starting next weekend, WFIU will add several programs to its Saturday afternoon lineup, starting with a repeat airing of “This American Life” at noon.
A new NPR show, “Ask Me Another,” featuring puzzles, word games and trivia played in front of a live audience in New York, will air at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
At 2 p.m. Saturdays, the program “Wits” will air. The show features comedians, actors and musicians from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., and is hosted by John Moe.
The “Dinner Party Download,” an hour of “unconventional” news brought to listeners by hosts Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam, will air at 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
At noon on Sundays, listeners will hear a repeat airing of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” followed by two new shows.
“Fresh Air Weekend,” an anthology of Terry Gross’ best recent interviews, will run at 1 p.m. on Sundays. A Canadian cousin to “A Prairie Home Companion,” the “Vinyl Cafe,” written and hosted by Stuart McLean, will air at 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Starting Monday, WFIU will air “Morning Edition” from 5 to 9 a.m. and all hourly newscasts will come from NPR, according to a news release from the station’s website. The extra hour of “Morning Edition” replaces an hour of BBC news from 5 to 6 a.m. The station is also dropping its two BBC newscasts each weekday.
A 30 percent cost increase in BBC fees caused station officials to re-evaluate WFIU’s use of the BBC service, given that the station’s most expensive and most popular program is “Morning Edition.”
“It is really important that we have some kind of foreign news on WFIU,” Murphy said in a phone interview Friday. “I just don’t know what that avenue is going to be. That’s going to have to be a decision down the road.”
Parts of the weekend lineup of the digital-only WFIU2 are also changing. For more information about the changes, see http://indianapublicmedia.org/about/wfius-weekend-lineup/.
Murphy said he is open to suggestions and comments about WFIU’s programming changes. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.