WBAA reverses decision to cancel ‘This American Life’

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An Indiana station that planned to drop This American Life from its broadcast schedule reversed course Thursday.

The decision followed an announcement by Mike Savage, g.m. of WBAA in West Lafayette, that the station was pulling the program, in part because of the series’ availability on Pandora. Savage, a member of the NPR Board, announced the cancellation on LinkedIn. The post was later taken down but can still be seen here.

“For a program that got its start on public radio and had some of the best on-air fundraising messages for listeners where Ira Glass says he is volunteering his time because he believes in the mission of public broadcasting, the move by This American Life to Pandora is disingenuous at best,” Savage wrote at the time.

But a programming note on the station’s website now tells listeners that “considerable listener feedback” prompted it to keep the show in its lineup.

“A critical component of our mission is to continuously evaluate and improve our service,” the post said. “We do not take programming changes lightly and only do so after undertaking due diligence relative to listenership surveys and member feedback. . . . After considerable listener feedback, This American Life will remain on WBAA. We are evaluating the schedule and working to select a weekend time that will best showcase the program on WBAA.”

When reached by email, Savage declined to comment further. “Our statement on our website speaks for itself,” he wrote.

In an interview recorded before WBAA reversed itself, Savage described the thinking behind his original decision to Adam Ragusea of Current’s podcast The Pub, “My big concern with this distribution over Pandora is Pandora is a commercial entity,” he said. “They accept advertising, they put advertising there and people have subscriptions. And to have the same program that we air on a commercial entity, I just didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to take the money that we work very hard to raise from our listeners and invest that in that sort of service.

After the LinkedIn post went live, Glass told Current, that This American Life’s relationship with Pandora benefits public radio stations.

“…[W]hen we make money from Pandora or from podcasting revenue, from podcast advertising, public radio stations are seeing a benefit because what we’re doing is we’re investing that money in better programming,” Glass said. “… We’re taking the money that we’re making in these other ways, and we’re putting that into programming which shows up on public radio stations. There are things that we would not be able to afford to do that we’re using this money for. That’s the benefit to the system.”

  • Frank Roosevelt

    It is sad that WBAA caved to pressure instead of educating the public in how to listen to This American Life in a far superior way to “appointment” listening. I love the ability to listen to shows according to MY schedule, although there are a few shows I listen to via a live stream when my schedule allows.