Monday, May 14, 2012

The TED Radio Hour

I was driving back from Boston and was out on 287 South in the no man's land of northern New Jersey. It's a semi-rural area with cheap gas and bad food and not much for radio other than 91.9 WNTI. It's out of the reach of WSOU, and the best of the New York FM dial. But on the way past Philadelphia I heard a strange dual branded ID on 90.9 WHYY... for the TED Radio Hour on NPR.

The program was excellent. TED is an ongoing series of presentational talks on various topics,  educational, positive, and always interesting. But in being a "talk" program.. it lends itself to radio instantly. The program intersperses interviews with the presentations to make a live narrative out of an existing produced video. It's not Ira Glass, but it's close. Yesterday the first clip I heard was a TED talk by Cary Fowler called "One Seed At A Time." The TED talk dates top 2009, but with commentary from Cary and host Allison Stewart it becomes new again. They keep the best of the original work and update it as needed, discarding or correcting as they go along.

Surely not every TED talk can remain relevant for 3 years, but that's what producers are for. They have a huge library of content to draw upon and are in a position to be selective. They segue between three thematically related, 18-minute TED presentations to make a full hour program. It's a treasure trove of high-brow programming; perfect for the NPR audience: a middle-aged, college-educated group. More here.

I've tried to find a list of stations carrying the program and have failed. I have a partial list: WEKU, WHYY, WNPR, WUKY, KACU, WLPR, WAMU, KUOW, KRWG, WRVO and WVTF. There are certainly more. Just this month they claimed in The Washington Post, that the program was on "roughly 100 public radio stations..."  (that's out of a pool of over 900) Stewart, though a frequent MSNBC guest, keeps the program intellectual, and strictly a-political. It's a nice fit for the ever-paranoid and oft-gutless NPR network. The program debuted on April 27th of this year, and I found it by accident. It strikes me as an obvious winner, though long term I wonder how that huge library of content will hold up, burning three talks per week for a single hour program. More here.