Deciding What Programs to Carry

With Talk of the Nation winding up its run on NPR at the end of June, the public radio system is all abuzz with theories of what will replace it. NPR has chosen WBUR’s Here and Now as the official replacement, but PRI is touting WNYC’s The Takeaway and there are other programs that are marketing themselves as the ideal substitute for TOTN.

At a webinar entitled “Deciding What Programs to Carry,” Michigan Radio Program Director Tamar Charney advised that programmers think less about programs, to start with, and more about the station’s overall style or “stationality.” She posed these questions:

  1. What is the station’s style? What image does it project?
  2. Does the station want to maintain it or change it?
  3. What audience is it trying to attract?

Then she said, add to these considerations: What is the listener’s lifestyle at the particular time of day being considered? Who are you trying to please with your decision (audience, your boss, your Board, your PD peers?) And, what is the program’s fit with the rest of your schedule?

Charney even went so far as to suggest that shows that draw audience and shows that are right for your station’s schedule … may not be the same! Believe it or not, the very popular signature program This American Life used to be one of these. It was known as a “home wrecker” because it attracted an audience totally different than the rest of the station’s schedule did and thus, did not help build the station’s total audience. People literally seemed to tune in for TAL and then tune out afterward! Now, of course, it has plenty of compatible programs such as Snap Judgment and The Moth.

To hear the audio of the entire webinar, go to the PRNDI site. If you are a member of the Public Radio Program Directors, the entire webinar including slides is available on the PRPD site.


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