Sunday, August 21, 2005

"X-Star" Goes Dark in Cincy

OMW is mostly a Northeast Ohio production, focusing on markets like Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown. It's where we live, and the area of the state we know best. We mostly don't intend on covering Columbus and Cincinnati, but this is a unique one.

The "X-Star Radio Network", a far-flung regional network of public radio FM stations based at Xavier University's WVXU/91.7 in Cincinnati, is going off the air tonight. In its place will be a new NPR-based news/talk service operated by incumbent Cincinnati public radio station WGUC/90.9, which will move many NPR talk programs to the new outlet...and focus more on its classical music output. (Does this sound familiar, OMW regulars? It's happening in other markets around the country, and may well be duplicated here in Northeast Ohio if WKSU/89.7 gets its hands on one of Akron's two non-commercial outlets.)

Though it appears WVXU did air some NPR programming, like "Morning Edition" and "Fresh Air", it also carried some very unique locally-produced talk and music programming. "X-Star" was by far not your typical local NPR station, and starting Monday, it'll be chock full (mostly) of NPR's news/talk programming. In one nod to "X-Star", the new WVXU will carry old-time radio shows...though not the locally-hosted productions once heard on the station. It'll run the syndicated "When Radio Was" weeknights.

The closest "X-Star" outlet to Northern Ohio is down in Chillicothe - OMW has heard it while on the road. In addition to that station, the Cincinnati base and a station in West Union, WVXU also has repeaters in northern Michigan...stations we've also heard. In fact, OMW's first encounter with "X-Star" was while driving through that state.

It seems somewhat likely that the Michigan stations will be spun off to another operator, as it appears UNLIKELY that WGUC has any interest in serving that far-off area.


Zorka said...

As a subscriber to WVXU who lived in Dayton, I was very disappointed in how WGUC has literally eviscerated the former station. Despite their online survey promising to listen to the stations listeners and subscribers, it became obvious very quickly they had their own agenda.

WVXU was able to produce some excellent programs while maintaining a profit based operation. It will be interesting to see how this new setup will be from a profit orientation. Given that there are numerous other NPR stations in the area, they have chosen to replicate those same stations.

WestEnder said...

Don't be so quick to criticize the WVXU/WGUC merger. The reason this happened is because a religious broadcasting network tried to buy WVXU. WVXU staved it off by agreeing to be bought by WGUC, even though the offer was lower.

Both stations are university-based public radio, and we hope this will be a case in which a merger really does turn out to be good for consumers.

Previously, there was duplication in programming, and both stations had music as well as talk in their programming. With the merger, they will simply shift more of the talk to one station, and more of the music to the other.

Zorka said...

But I was told by insiders that WVXU *wanted* to sell the licenses anyway to fund construction on campus. It wasn't a case of WGUC *saving* WVXU from a buy out. My understanding is that they had a choice - in fact they did not need to sell the licenses.

Perhaps the sell off was inevitable. What my point is - is that WGUC never really listened to the WVXU subscribers. Otherwise, there were certainly be more old time radio, for example, because it was bringing in area subscribers and was not a losing proposition. What WGUC chose to do is offer an uninformed opinion in going with the "When Radio Was" program. That program is offered free to any radio station as long as they keep the commercials in tact. So there really wasn't any effort on WGUC's part to offer a carrot of conciliation to the large number of old time radio fans who supported WVXU.