WNIU decides to cancel radio show

By Stephan L. Lopes

WNIU-FM, 89.5, has decided to stop carrying Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion show due to doubled costs and decreased number of new shows.

Assistant station manager Tim Emmons said a variety of factors contributed to the decision not to carry the show. Lowered ratings, higher program costs and scheduling conflicts all contributed to WNIU’s decision.

“People seem to have lost interest in the show,” said Emmons. “The number of listeners has gone way down. I wasn’t sure that there was enough interest in Garrison Keillor to make it worth buying,” he said.

Keillor also is offering a new show, American Radio Company of the Air. The two shows are purchased together from Minnesota Public Radio.

American Public Radio, who distributes the shows, said the new and repeat shows will cost $110 per week. This is 100 percent more than the cost of the shows when they were broadcast live.

Keillor and APR also have cut the number of new shows by half. Coupled with the new cost, the price of new shows are “basically quadrupled,” said Robin Cross, WNIU Chief Engineer.

In addition to the increased price and lower number of new shows, American Public Radio required WNIU to air the program at 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The shows were previously aired at 7 p.m. Emmons said listeners were satisfied with the original broadcast time, so WNIU was reluctant to change it.

Emmons said WNIU has been running repeat shows for a couple of years. However, “When you’re not doing something live for a long period of time, it kind of loses its luster,” he said. “It’s like watching ‘I Love Lucy’ reruns on TV. You still enjoy them, but you don’t plan your week around watching it.”

The final blow came when American Public Radio told WNIU they would not be able to meet an agreed upon Sept. 30 airing. The news came after WNIU had gone to print with their September program guide.

The station had to insert a notice informing the listeners. In the notice, WNIU also told listeners of the decision to cancel the show. WNIU’s Advisory Committee is responsible for the decision.

In the past, A Prairie Home Companion was one of WNIU’s most popular programs. The station has received several calls complaining about the cancellation from fans. WNIU also has received letters supporting cancellation of the show.

A Prairie Home Companion centers on the fictitious town of Lake Wobegon, Minn. It is the home of Powdermilk Biscuits and other satirical products.

Wisconsin Public Radio affiliates WERN-FM and WHA-AM in Madison, and WBEZ in Chicago, will carry the programs beginning Nov. 25.

WNIU has planned to feature the Seigal-Schwall Blues Band on Saturday evenings in place of A Prairie Home Companion.