WBUR’s ‘On Point’ will drop calls, move to one-hour broadcast

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Liz Linder


WBUR will cut the live call-in portion of the midday talk show On Point and reduce the show from two hours to one, CEO Margaret Low told stations July 1.

In its new form, the show will aim to take deeper dives on newsworthy subjects with more highly produced and narrative segments, some of which might be produced in advance to try to create “this can’t-miss, sucks-you-in radio experience,” host Meghna Chakrabarti told Current.

“This time that we have, this precious hour that we’re asking listeners to spend with us, we want to elevate it as much as we can,” Chakrabarti said. “So we want to provide the magnificent things that produced radio can do and blend that with the magnificent things that live conversation can do.”

Chakrabarti pointed to two recent episodes of the show — one on evictions and another about tear gas — as examples of what the hourlong version will sound like. The episodes included first-person accounts and a look at possible solutions to problems, as well as the interviews with experts that have been a staple of the show. Chakrabarti said she expects the new iteration of the show to contain those elements when the transition is made in October. 

Under the new model, Chakrabarti said she will look to create a program that “opens listeners’ ears and minds to the really fundamental issues that we’re all grappling with and gives them kind of a toolkit on how to understand these dizzying changes that we’re all living through.”

Low told Current that WBUR is making the changes “to be responsive to the changing times and to what audiences want and to what we think will be most powerful for stations and their audiences.”

Though financial pressures caused by the pandemic prompted WBUR to lay off some staff and cut shows, those concerns aren’t behind the changes to On Point, Low said. She said the move to an hourlong show is “not about retrenchment. It’s about actually turbocharging our ambitions.”  

The same number of people will work on the one-hour show. With the reduced hour, the staff will be able to “produce something much more subtle and substantive than those people working on two hours,” she said.

On Point currently feeds live at the same time as 1A, another call-in talk show produced by WAMU in Washington, D.C.. WBUR was looking to differentiate On Point show in rethinking its structure, Low said.

Low also announced in her July 1 memo to stations that NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik will no longer host the Friday episode of the program.

The program airs on 285 stations; 159 stations take both hours.

16 thoughts on “WBUR’s ‘On Point’ will drop calls, move to one-hour broadcast

  1. I am so disappointed that On Point with Meghan Charabarti is moving to 8 pm. I live in Florida. She is excellent. This is horrible!!

  2. I see that Meghna the Empathy Queen h\as deemed she no longer needs to have her gush of self-satisfied opinion sullied by hearing the inconvenient views of the great unwashed. Wasn’t gathering the views of the public the whole point of this show?
    I don’t listen much any more and will now enjoy listening even less.

  3. This is my favorite show (besides Terri Gross)! I am truly disappointed. She is an intelligent and insightful interviewer. I will truly miss the old format. I truly think this a mistake, especially now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for all you do to keep us informed!

  4. I will miss Folkenflick as he seems to be more experienced than Chakrabarti. On Point has not been up to the performance in earlier years, not that of its precursor, Connections. Try Open Source.

  5. I thought Chakrabarti was OK, my problem with the show was that she talked too much. I wanted to hear what her guests thought, not her. Short precise questions to the quest would have been much better and I bet her ratings would have been better had she taken that approach.

  6. Need to bring “On Point” back to morning spot. Really sad move by NPR to move the show. It’s the one bright morning show. The other show in it’s place is terrible.
    Meghan is superb & the topics are superb.

  7. I listened to On Point since it became a morning show. It was great. They should not have fired Tom. I like Meghna, but she wasn’t as good as Tom and the topics became less interesting. I went from listening to 10 shows a week to 3 or 4. The decision to stop taking live calls made the program less spontaneous. Then they stopped letting listeners comment on the website. I hardly ever listen now.

  8. You should do a “re-up” on how this show is doing because every… I mean EVERY npr listener I know and there are many… has been disappointed by the new format.. from the silly “mood music “. To the repetitive one day trump next day virus zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  9. I listen every day, and I think Meghna is as talented as Terri Gross. The change in format, and reduction to one hour was a really stupid business decision by Margaret Low. Who is On Point’s audience, and who contributes to WBUR? Are you only measuring how many people pull it up on the App, or comment on social media, or do you have a way to see who actually listens to the radio? She had quite a following based on the diversity of callers, when call-in was allowed. Her integrity and the intellectual curiosity reflected in her topic choices have endeared her to many loyal followers like me. When you carried Meghna thru the 11am hour, you retained many more listeners who didn’t switch to Boston Public Radio for the afternoon. Your 1A replacement is not nearly the same caliber or draw. We’re fortunate to have two great stations in Boston -this decision cuts in to WBUR’s loyal listeners and contributors. Younger people will be returning to the physical workplace post Covid. You will need to retain the retirees, and parents who can actually listen offline. During Covid Meghna was a lifeline, and inspired great loyalty. Margaret Low’s decision has angered many. We’re not taking to Twitter-we’re just silently turning the dial and redirecting our contributions!

  10. Meghna is brilliant. Yes, she does try to organize the conversation so listeners can more easily follow the central concept/s. David Folkenflik was (and still is) difficult for me to listen to. No doubt, an excellent reporter. But for me, his vocal style make it so difficult to follollow the content. Most of all, I do miss the Friday week in review!!! Bring back Jack!

  11. I think Meghna talks too much, repeating her question, which usually begins with a statement of her understanding, and sucking up time by frequently remarking on how little of it is left. She punches every word, so that the emphasis is on what she’s saying, rather than the guests.

    It’s clear that she is an inquisitive, intelligent, decent, good-natured person, but I find the subtleties in a truly engaging back-and-forth are lacking. It’s on to the next remark/question/time check.

  12. I’m with Laura on this. Meghna’s guests have to interrupt her to get a word in edgewise. Here is how she uses up the airtime: self-repetition, recasting one guest’s statement when turning to another guest, use of prepared sound bites even when an invited expert has just devastated that premise and even when she’s almost out of time, and use of little scripts she has clearly drafted to show the supposed depth of her thinking even when far it’s far less interesting than what has emerged in the ‘conversation.’ Cross talk between her guests is very rare. She needs to learn what good college professors learn: Being prepared is great, but: trust your students/guests. They are present because they can think. They actually know more than you do about many things. They WANT to contribute. Together you create something much more interesting than your monologue. Producers: do a time allotment analysis on one of her transcripts and mentor her so she can do better. I avoid her.

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