If you're over 30, you probably remember New Coke. Coca-Cola's reworked secret formula was meant to drag the company out of a perceived rut. One public outcry later and the lesson was clear: Change can be good, but handle with care.
Since 1973, WRFG-FM (89.3) has trumpeted its mission of giving voice to the voiceless. Blending an eclectic mix of music genres with progressive-tilted talk, the station became a touchstone for communities often ignored by traditional media outlets. But a slate of proposed programming changes currently before the station's board has caused many of the station's staff volunteers to cry foul.
The programming committee proposed a wide-ranging plan that could impact much of the schedule. "World Party," a weekday four-hour block consisting of African, Latin, Caribbean and American music, would be eliminated. Some of those genres would still be represented in a few weekend shows. Two other weekday programs, blues show "Good Morning Blues," and late-night hip-hop show "Ruff, Rugged, and Raw," would be trimmed by one hour. Other shows' timeslots may be shuffled as well.
The shake-up is designed to make room for at least two new public affairs programs and to clear the way for a live broadcast of "Democracy Now" (an NPR show that the station currently tapes for playback later in the day). Board members mentioned Creative Loafing Senior Editor John Sugg and former WAOK-AM (1380) personality Chris Askew as hosts for the new public affairs shows. Sugg says that he is open to the idea of hosting a show at WRFG, however, no agreement had been reached at press time.
The changes aim to improve the quality of the station's public affairs programming, according to Executive Committee President Heather Gray. The proposal, she says, is in the long-term interest of the station.
Regardless, the proposal is drawing sustained fire from volunteers whose programming would be affected. Their various appeals to the board touch on different details, but together sound a unified note of protest.
"Taking valuable airtime ... robs not only our listeners ... but also [robs artists of] the meager potential income gained from their continued exposure to our audience," wrote "Good Morning Blues" host Michael Ellis.
"The proposed changes will drastically scale back and in some cases eliminate from WRFG voices representing the Latin, Caribbean, and African communities," wrote "World Party" host Jason Walker.
One volunteer who asked to remain anonymous summed up much of the discontent: "So African, Latin, and Caribbean music go from daily to weekly, and hip-hop and blues lose time, and all so two guys who already have platforms for their opinions can get a little more light. On top of that, I've never seen Sugg or Chris Askew at the broadcast class [WRFG's certification course for on-air personnel]."
In addition to their formal appeals, many volunteers took to the airwaves in an attempt to gain public backing. The maneuver prompted a memo from the station's operations committee, which stated in part, "WRFG airways are not to be used as forums for mobilizing listener support to prevent proposed changes. Anyone found violating this policy will be terminated."
Management and board members stress that the plan does not represent a shift in WRFG's core values or in its commitment to its volunteer staff. "WRFG will always be dedicated to giving voice to the elements in our society who have traditionally been denied a voice," Gray says, "and while change is always difficult, we are trying to balance the interests of our staff with the future of our station."
Gray says the board will decide on the proposal at its next meeting, taking into full account the objections volunteer staff raised. A date for that meeting has not been set, but Broadcast Director Ebon Dooley says that approved changes would be phased in incrementally beginning in September.
Killin it. So damn sexy
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…