Programming changes in store for WAMU(FM) in Washington mean the non-com will be among the first stations in the nation to offer live programming for a multicast channel.
Come Sept. 17, the American University licensee will add news and information programs to its Sunday schedule and drop bluegrass from that slot; shift the bluegrass programming to its HD2 channel; and launch an HD3 channel devoted to news and talk. See the schedules here.
Right now, Bluegrass Country is pre-recorded and heard online (www.bluegrasscountry.org) and during a 15-hour block on Sunday mornings. Bluegrass will move to WAMU’s HD2 channel and feature live hosts during drive times.
Moving bluegrass to a multicast channel now means WAMU’s main analog and digital channels will be strictly news, talk and information.
The HD3 channel will have public radio news programming not found on the main channel. The station’s partnership with Towson University station AAA-formatted WTMD(FM), will continue on weekday overnights as well as early evenings and weekend overnights.
The station announced the changes on-air Monday. Station GM Caryn Mathes stated it was “time to begin treating HD Radio multicasting as ‘real’ radio. HD Radio is becoming eminently accessible to the general consumer, and we believe it is the future of terrestrial radio.”
Cutbacks and moves in bluegrass programming at WAMU have been contentious over the years. The station plans to give away 1,000 HD Radios to listeners who already support the station’s bluegrass programming with donations “regardless of their giving level.”
Bravo for one of my radio alma maters. When I worked on-air in the WAMU newsroom, the station was paring back jazz and expanding bluegrass offerings, which were later cut back to much hue and cry among that format’s loyalists. It’s about time bluegrass gets its own channel again, allowing the main channel to be consistently devoted to public radio news and information programming.
It will be interesting to see if those vocal music fans, who now lose the weekend slot for their format on the main FM band, will be mollified, or maybe even excited, by having a full channel on a multicast feed.
Since WETA dropped most of its news content and returned to classical, WAMU is the only station carrying NPR, PRI and American Public Media news programs in Washington, the nation’s eighth-largest radio metro, according to Arbitron.