Thursday, March 23, 2006

Can you have too much NPR?

I am in Greensboro, NC today and no fewer then 3 dial positions carry essentially the same NPR talk programming during the week. At 5:15 today I jumped from 88.5 WFDD, to 90.1 WNAA to WUNC 91.5 and each was carrying the exact same program. WFDD and WUNC were even in relatively good synch. WNAA seemed to be about a half-second ahead of them creating an amusing hiccup effect. Were these stations all owned (or members) of the same network this could be sensible. They are not. Many of us have encountered similar problems but this may be the most blatant.

WUNC has the largest coverage area of the three centered over Chapel Hill, part of the Raleigh market reaching its 100k watts from Wilson to Fayetteville, to Greensboro and north into Danville VA. ...clearly the dominant player for the region

WFDD has the second largest coverage area; centered over Lexington reaching past Greensboro to the East, but petering out before Raleigh to the east and almost making Hickory to the west. It is completely enveloped by WUNC, making its matching NPR programming completely redundant. Then WNAA is the smallest by far; centered over Greensboro they are entirely constrained to the market. They too are offering completely redundant matching NPR programs. sigh.  These are what the Poor Mojo Newswire calls an NPR-Zombie.

The most unique outlet for the market is 90.9 WQFS. In the last hour, they have played (that I recognize) the Yeah yeah yeahs, The Bee Gees, Test Icicles, Philly locals Man Man, Chuck Berry and even the Yonder Mountain String band.

This market is also home to LP stations 103.1 WFEC, 103.1 WUAG, 106.1 WEJM, WBYJ 97.9, and WEOM 103.1. WUAG is a 16 watt college station a genuine Class D license that existed prior to the LP glut . What kills me is that they have only 1 first adjacent conflict and nothing on the second. If they sat down 10 years ago and planned out a directional broadcast to the SW to protect 103.3 WAKG in Danville, VA they would be a real player in that market now. Instead they languish buried on the same frequency as two other LPs both of which have more wattage.

Just out of range from my hotel is 90.5 WSNC. Its southern coverage is hampered by frequency-mate WUSC in Columbia. But with only WFAE on their first adjacent 60 miles away they too probably could turn up the juice and serve more of the market.