‘Sound Medicine’ earning its chops in radio markets across country

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Indianapolis public broadcasting station WFYI-FM 90.1 aims to expand distribution of its locally produced “Sound Medicine” show to include at least 30 radio stations in large- and medium-sized markets in the next two years.

Many local listeners probably don't realize that the 12-year-old show already airs on 16 out-of-state stations as far away as Alaska.

"The goal has always to have more of a national series," said Lori Plummer, spokeswoman for WFYI.

WFYI has lassoed two year's of funding to “build a sustainable national brand” for the show, which the station produces through a partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine. The new funds are being used to add an executive producer tasked with improving distribution and content of the program, which is distributed without charge to stations interested in running it.

"Trying to negotiate a license fee at this point is a barrier to carriage," said Alan Cloe, executive vice president of content services at WFYI.

As for how much money was recently committed, and by whom, station executives declined to say. In the past, much of the funding has come from Indiana University Health Physicians and from IUPUI, which often are mentioned during the program.

“The question has always been, ‘Gee, if the show is so good, why not more stations?’” Cloe said.

Cloe tapped radio consultants, who affirmed that the show has national potential. He’s been busy lately interviewing candidates for a new, executive producer position to help coordinate national growth.

"Sound Medicine," whose primary host is former WRTV-TV Channel 6 anchor Barbara Lewis, covers everything from new medical treatments to dispelling common medical myths.

The sometimes-dry, hour-long show has tried to diversify its appeal in recent years and become less Indiana-centric—even venturing into a feature on rural Australian health care. Although IU School of Medicine specialists are still core to the show, listeners may now hear interviews with doctors at Johns Hopkins or from an institution in San Francisco.

"Sound Medicine" is heard in such cities as Fort Worth, Texas; Hunstville, Ala.; and Spokane, Wash. That’s on top of 20 radio stations carrying the program in Indiana.

Cloe said one benefit from distributing "Sound Medicine" nationally is it helps boost the perceived value of the show among listeners in central Indiana—whose financial support the station counts on. 

WFYI-FM currently airs the show on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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