Scale: Wisconsin net has economies of size and local bureaus, too

Nothing comes easily to public radio, not even a good idea. About 30 years ago, Wisconsin Public Radio veteran Jack Mitchell came up with the concept of banding together small stations throughout Wisconsin into a centralized system, within which a mothership would handle overhead and distribution, thus freeing up resources for stronger local content. Today, Wisconsin Public Radio operates 33 stations that benefit from strength in numbers – some of which might not exist today were it not for a centralized system. Each station is tied to one of two statewide networks, one featuring the NPR newsmagazines and classical music and the other mostly state-oriented talk programming. WPR “has twice as much programming” as a single network, said Mitchell, who now teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and the networks don’t air the same programs at the same time.