An Early Look at WPFW’s New Schedule
Update, Dec. 1: Remember how I said these changes were tentative? Looks like Caribbeana will remain on the air, but it'll be one hour shorter, running from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday. See the bottom of this post.
Original post: Last Friday, some WPFW staffers heard from the station's management about impending changes to the programming grid. This Monday, they got a sneak peak at the proposed changes. And throughout the week, some programmers heard that their shows would be axed—in some cases immediately before they went on air for the final time.
The news went public Wednesday night, when the "jazz and justice" station's interim programming director, Bobby Hill, made an announcement on Facebook. General Manager John Hughes defended the changes this morning on the air, saying they were necessary to turn around WPFW's audience and fundraising woes.
If last winter's programmer uprising petered out, Hughes and Hills' announcements have clearly reignited it: This afternoon, a group of programmers, listeners, and WPFW staff gathered outside the station's Adams Morgan building—which also houses Washington City Paper—where they aired their grievances with the new programming changes. Tomorrow morning at the Busboys & Poets at 5th and K streets NW, the mostly volunteer programmers will host a public forum.
So what will the programming changes look like at the Pacifica Foundation-owned station? While the new programming grid hasn't been finalized, a WPFW staffer gave me a tentative rundown.
Music is entirely gone from weekday work hours, with the exception of Don't Forget the Blues from noon to 1 p.m., with a variety of hosts.
The daytime public affairs programs will begin with the 6 o 8 a.m. Morning Brew, a program executive produced by Askia Muhammad, Gladys L. Brooks, and Robb Simms featuring various music hosts. Muhammad told media blogger Richard Prince that the new program would modeled as a combination of Democracy Now! and The Tom Joyner Morning Show.
Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman's national Pacifica show, will continue from 8 to 9 a.m. The programs Community Comment and Metro Watch will be effectively merged into the 9 to 10 a.m. Community Watch & Comment, which the WPFW staffer described as an interview-plus-comments show, with each day centered on a new topic.
The 10 a.m. hour will have Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod, a talk program from Pacifica's L.A. station KPFK—except on Mondays, which will feature Tavis Smiley and Cornel West's Smiley & West Show. Both programs are new to WPFW.
The 11 a.m. hour will rotate: Heal DC on Mondays, Eco Shock on Tuesdays, and DC Politics Hour on Thursdays. According to the staffer, the programmers offered the Wednesday and Friday slots haven't committed yet. (That'd be Verna Avery Brown and Ester Iverim's What's at Stake on Wednesdays and Jared Ball's Super Funky Soul Power Hour on Fridays.)
The 1 p.m. hour will also rotate: Inside Out on Mondays, Crossroads on Tuesdays, and Africa Now on Wednesdays, and Latino Media Collective on Thursdays—with Friday's The Nightwolf Show still up in the air. (At today's gathering, Jay Winter Nightwolf described the move as an attempt to torpedo his show.)
The 2 p.m. hour will feature another new import, John Hockenberry's talk program The Takeaway. The alternative medicine-focused Gary Null Show continues at 3 p.m. The newly imported Letters & Politics with Mitch Jeserich—from Pacifica's KPFA in Berkely, Calif.—will air from 4 to 5 p.m. At 5 p.m. the station will rebroadcast Democracy Now!—except on Friday when it will feature its own new news program, News Views, hosted by Mark Levine and Garland Nixon of the current show Raucous Caucus, which has been cut.
And at 6 p.m. the station will air NPR's Tell Me More hosted by Michel Martin—which you can also hear four days a week at 2 p.m. on D.C.'s NPR affiliate, WAMU 88.5.
A bunch of public affairs programs were cut, although the station's ambition is for their hosts to regularly appear on Morning Brew. The axed programs: We Ourselves—The Struggle Continues, Spirit in Action, Voices With Vision, In Our Voices, For Your Health, and On the Margin. It looks like Spectrum Today News is also gone.
Weekday music resumes after the 6 p.m. hour, with various jazz programs running from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m.—although not necessarily with the programmers you remember in each time spot. The long-running women's music show Sophie's Parlor has been axed, for example—with the station hoping that its programmers will produce twice-yearly all-day specials.
Got all that? Breathe. Here are some of the weekend changes. Both Saturday and Sunday's programs have been shuffled.
On Saturday: Captain Fly and Nate the Skate's Oldies House Party has been pushed back to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. And the weekday Decipher hip-hop shows have been consolidated into a 9 p.m. to midnight block—although apparently not every Decipher programmer will be participating. There are two new Saturday shows: James Funk and Adrian Loving's House of Soul, which will feature go-go and other D.C. sounds; and Soul of Jazz, which will be imported from Atlanta's WCLK. Some shows—like Millie's Mellow Moments and The Andrea Bray Show—have been shuffled to new times on Saturday and are still tentative. Others, like Da' Gator Show and the zydeco program, have been moved up an hour (to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively) and will continue.
On Sunday: Continuing programs with slightly tweaked times include Spirit of Jazz, G-Strings, Sunday Kind of Love, American Songbook, Sound of Surprise, and the two Latin Flavor programs—although the staffer said the previously separate Latin blocks may be consolidated into one three-hour show. Reggae will continue in the late hours.
Among weekend shows, it looks like Sounds of Brasil is gone. And a recommended move from 7 p.m. Saturday to 10 p.m. Sunday means that the popular Caribbeana, hosted by Von Martin, is gone, too, according to the staffer. The Bama Hour and Konbit Lakay were also cut.
The new schedule is set to premiere Monday.
So what does this all mean? I'll have way more this week.
Here's the email Von Martin sent Caribbeana listeners today:
"Caribbeana" is a radio program broadcasting on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, DC for the past 37 years since 1975. Von Martin is the creator and executive producer. This radio program is a part of Caribbeana Communications Inc. (CCI) Division of Media Broadcasting.
On Tuesday, November 27th, CCI was informed by WPFW's interim Program Manager, Bobby Hill, that Caribbeana Radio had two options: 1) reduce programming by one hour, move to Sunday nights from 10 PM to 12 AM and shift its 30 minute news segment to another programmer or 2) not broadcast at all with WPFW as of December. In the best interest of our listeners, executive producer, Mr. Martin agreed to the current change with plans to regain the lost hour as confirmed by Mr. Huges, Station Manager. This decision was made with the intent of resolving the immediate problem and better to have one less hour than abruptly be taken off air and disconnected from Caribbeana's listeners.
The short notice of program changes not only impacted Caribbeana Radio, but all Caribbean content aired on WPFW as well as various historical jazz and talk programs that WPFW has had most recently. This notice of change was informally and unprofessionally announced to each of the programmers impacted by these changes.
These program changes come at the heels of WPFW management's attempt to rectify many years of past indiscretions, issues and concerns that have set the radio station in a spiral. However, after further discussion with the Station Manager, John Hughes, Caribbeana will continue to broadcast on Saturday evenings, but for only two hours between 7 PM to 9 PM. This is an interim solution to a long standing problem .
It is clear that Caribbeana Radio must find a new home for broadcasting as the environment at WPFW is no longer stable. Efforts put forth by Caribbeana Communications Inc. for instutionalizing the work of Caribbeana Radio must be accelerated. CCI continues with its project to establish its own community based internet radio station promoting Caribbean affairs and content locally and internationally. This station will be called Caribbeana Radio- WCCI FM.
As our supporter we thank you. We ask that you begin or continue to have an interactive role with CCI as we build out Caribbeana Radio from solely airing on a terrestrial radio station, once a week, to broadcasting online 24 hours 7 days a week.
CCI and Caribbeana Radio are administratively and operationally separate from WPFW 89.3 FM, which is considered a partner. Donations given to WPFW do not support CCI outside of airtime. Money raised by volunteer programmers does not assist with time for researching and preparing program content and production. Those costs are primarily handled independently by the respective volunteer programmers such as Mr. Martin. Help support our mission with a tax deductible donation. Begin by clicking Donate Now button to the left. Visit CCI's website http://caribbeana.org to see more about our programming and services.
Caribbeana Radio is designed to educate, entertain, and enlighten our audiences as we feature diverse music of the Caribbean, interviews, and up to date news of various Caribbean islands and their Diaspora. We bridge cultural gaps through media. We welcome all. We welcome YOU.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery