Car Talk led the way to homogenization of noncom radio, writer says

Car Talk is the exemplar for consolidation and homogenization on the noncommercial end of the dial,” writes Paul Riismandel, adviser to WNUR-FM at Northwestern University, on Radio Survivor. Riismandel notes that “as syndicated programming has taken over the programming schedule of public stations, local news, information and culture is pushed off. Car Talk is a program which pushed the frontier of this movement.”

He cites the 1997 uproar when Wisconsin Public Radio canceled its popular local About Cars program to carry Car Talk, which culminated in a hearing before the state legislature (Current, March 17, 1997). WPR received Car Talk free in exchange for continuing a contract to distribute its own syndicated program, Whad’Ya Know? — a strategy, Riismandel notes, which “sounds a lot like the ‘barter deals’ Premiere Radio Networks used to get the Rush Limbaugh program onto AM stations across the country in the early ’90s.”

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