After nearly 10 years on satellite radio, The Bob Edwards Show will cease production after Sept. 26, when the last of the original shows airs.
SiriusXM plans to continue feeding rebroadcasts of the program to its subscribers. Bob Edwards Weekend, the Public Radio International series produced from a selection of SiriusXM interviews, will continue to run in repeats, according to the distributor.
“The program will continue to be a compilation of interviews that Bob has conducted in the past,” said Julia Yager, PRI senior v.p. marketing, sales and distribution. “We have communicated [that SiriusXM is halting production of new episodes] to stations, and talked about it at the [PRPD] conference last week, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.” The weekly program airs on 153 stations.
Edwards ends his decade-long satellite radio run reluctantly. “It certainly wasn’t my choice,” he told Current. “They think it’s a very expensive show. We have a staff of nine people in addition to me. They say that’s enormous. They have entire channels programmed by one guy. We’re doing entirely different things, but that doesn’t register with them. They just look at the costs.”
Charlie Summers, a fan of Edwards who began subscribing to XM Satellite Radio in 2004 when the former NPR host joined its lineup, is angry about the cancellation.
“I have listened to it every weekday short of being desperately ill or in the middle of the ocean,” said the systems analyst from York, Pa. He criticized SiriusXM for embracing shock jocks such as Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony. “I think the guys up at SiriusXM are more interested in midget tossing,” he said.
SiriusXM did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the show’s cancellation.
Edwards began producing the weekdaily Bob Edwards Show on a year-to-year contract in October 2004. Satellite radio was a new business then, and he signed on with XM, which offered him a new home after his ouster as host of NPR Morning Edition sparked an outcry from public radio listeners. He later paired with PRI to offer Bob Edwards Weekend for local public radio broadcasts.
But satellite radio couldn’t sustain two competing companies, and Sirius Satellite Radio acquired XM in 2008.
Over the years, many NPR alumnae joined Edwards on the production. His current staff of nine producers includes Chad Campbell, who worked on Talk of the Nation, and Ed McNulty, who was part of the Weekend Edition Saturday production team.
A native of Kentucky, Edwards spent 30 years at NPR, where he co-hosted All Things Considered before being tapped to serve as sole anchor for Morning Edition at its 1979 debut. Edwards was replaced by co-anchors Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne in 2004, and offered special correspondent status at NPR. In an acrimonious split, he left the network to launch a new show with XM.
Edwards insists there is no bad blood between him and NPR, which he says he listens to regularly. “I’ve been over there a bunch of times, and I have a lot of friends over there. I still think of them as the New York Times of broadcasting. I’m a little biased. My wife works there as a news anchor.” Edwards is married to NPR newscaster Windsor Johnston.
Though the audience for Edwards’ XM effort was a fraction of the size of Morning Edition’s, to his surprise the quality of guests willing to appear on The Bob Edwards Show did not fall off.
“They remembered me and they asked for me, frankly,” Edwards told Current.
And he found doing the long-form interview show was much easier than anchoring a daily two-hour newsmagazine.
“It was an absolute joy,” said Edwards. “We did what we wanted to do. We had no orders from management. It was complete freedom, and I’m very grateful to have had 10 years of that.”
Edwards estimates that he conducted some 5,000 interviews for his SiriusXM show and believes they comprise a valuable historical and cultural record. He has donated the archive to the Library of Congress. Among important Americans interviewed by Edwards but no longer alive are activist Father Robert Drinan, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
“If you want long-form interviews with those people late in their career, there they are,” said Edwards.
SiriusXM plans to retain one of Edwards’ producers to stay on and assemble shows from the archive.
The Bob Edwards Show provides 10 hours of programming in each weekday feed of SiriusXM’s XMPR channel. When it goes into repeats, it joins another archive-derived program, Car Talk, which airs six hours a day on the same channel. If Sirius XM maintains that schedule, two-thirds of the channel’s programming each day will be devoted to defunct pubradio programs.
For his final show, Edwards plans appearances by NPR’s Susan Stamberg, the Kitchen Sisters and Tavis Smiley.
“I just thought that for the last show it would be appropriate to have some public radio people on,” he said.
Edwards, who is 67, definitely wants to keep working. Would he like to return to public radio?
“If someone wants me, that would be wonderful. I’ve got a lot left,” said Edwards.