Local WFYI programs largely free of bias

July 26, 2014

Because I have served as chief programming officer for both WIBC-AM radio and later WFYI-FM public radio, the argument over a biased point of view of programming [Kalscheur letter July 21] is a great interest.

WIBC was successful until the early 1990s because it was “big tent” with a strong, independent news department; the Pacers; the Colts; the Indianapolis 500; and a relatively stable group of personalities. That is why Rush Limbaugh was on WNDE-AM when I left WIBC in 1990.

WFYI is a completely different animal. Unless a public radio station is staffed sufficiently to be largely locally programmed, with large amounts of classical and jazz music, most facilities tend to rebroadcast whatever is programmed from National Public Radio, American Public Media, Public Radio International and other public radio station producers.

Most of these organizations are based in liberal bastions like Washington, D.C.; New York and Los Angeles. WFYI’s perceived liberal bias is based on these shows developed elsewhere. Locally, WFYI tries to serve all of its constituents.

As station manager at WFYI between 1998 and 2004, I tried to keep the station politically neutral by inviting public servants from all parties onto its airwaves, especially during the run-up to general elections.

WFYI’s fledgling local news operation is improving and essentially unbiased, although it can hardly hold a candle to the best local radio news operations of WIBC under Fred Heckman, WTLC-FM under Gene Slaymaker and WIRE-AM under Steve Yount in the 1970s.

On the issue of public funding for WFYI, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Community Service Grant is not guaranteed. It is based upon audience reach and station outreach, all of which WFYI and Metropolitan Indianapolis Public Broadcasting Inc. deliver more than they receive.

WIBC’s Charlie Morgan and his programming staff have chosen to become a niche radio station by appealing to a specific conservative segment of the radio audience. Unfortunately, that segment is aging. Further, the total advertising base of WIBC has been declining significantly since the 1990s.

The danger for such relatively narrow targeting of an audience is listener fatigue. At WFYI, I would tire of the seemingly endless hours of issue-oriented public radio talk shows, welcoming the evening classical music on my drive home.

James E. “Jed” Duvall,
traveling freight agent, Radio-By-The-Hour Consulting Services

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