Wisconsin Public Radio changes formats 

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Wisconsin Public Radio is shifting the formats on its 38 stations, the network announced Tuesday. 

WPR will change the services on its stations from “NPR News & Music” and “The Ideas Network” to WPR News or WPR Music. The Ideas Network’s staff and many of its programs will become part of WPR News, according to a press release.

Wisconsin Public Radio Director Sarah Ashworth
WPR Director Sarah Ashworth (Photo: WPR/Tom Krueger Photography)

The change will take effect May 20. 

On its forthcoming news service, the statewide network will start a new morning news and culture show. Wisconsin Today will air at 9 a.m. on weekdays and will be hosted by Kate Archer Kent and Rob Ferrett.

Wisconsin Today will also be a podcast with weekday episodes that are 15 minutes or less. The program will cover “current and emerging issues with a decidedly Wisconsin point of view,” according to the release. 

Kent and Ferrett currently host local news programs The Morning Show and Central Time. Those programs will end so the hosts can focus on the new program. 

WPR is also ending a handful of regional programs and will stop airing some national programs to accommodate the new schedules, including 1A Plus, As It Happens, Q and Milk Street Radio. It is ending its news programs Route 51, Simply Superior and Newsmakers. The hosts of those programs will host and produce weekly regional news segments that will air within the local Morning Edition broadcast starting later this year. 

The changes will not result in layoffs, according to the release.

On the dedicated WPR Music service, the network will expand the number of hours of classical music it airs seven days per week and will air jazz and folk music on weekends. WPR is also adding staff to expand its locally hosted classical service. 

Currently, “NPR News & Music” features classical music and programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and BBC Newshour. The Ideas Network airs national programs such as 1A, On Point and The World and WPR programs including The Larry Meiller Show, Chapter a Day and Central Time. The Larry Meiller Show will move to WPR News and expand to two hours. 

“We are constantly evaluating our service to the people of Wisconsin and, like others in public media, WPR saw changes in broadcast and digital audience behavior during and after the pandemic,” WPR Director Sarah Ashworth said in the release. “No other medium is as accessible and affordable as radio and we want to make sure the news, music, information and entertainment Wisconsinites rely on is available to more people, in more places, for decades to come. WPR News and WPR Music will help make that possible.” 

The changes were “prompted by some of the same factors that other public radio stations have experienced — changes in audience behavior since the pandemic and an increased interest in online content,” a WPR spokesperson told Current. “But we also saw an opportunity to reorganize our networks and schedules to make it easier for Wisconsinites to find and enjoy the news, information and music that they rely on.”

Listeners in most WPR markets will be able to hear both services. Milwaukee is an exception. WPR will change the service on 90.7 FM WHAD, its only Milwaukee station, from The Ideas Network to WPR Music.

The station hired consulting firm Jacobs Media Strategies to gather input from its audiences and supporters in 2022 and 2023.

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