The 2012 Status Report of Democracy Now! on Chicago's radio airwaves

Posted by Mitchell - September 24, 2012 (entry 691)

In Chicago, Democracy Now! airs on cable on CAN TV (whose broadcast of the show has Chicago Media Action as a local partner; you're welcome) where more than 600,000 households can see the show every weekday morning. But the show has faced serious attrition on the airwaves of Chicago terrestrial radio. At this time five years ago, Democracy Now! aired daily on three Chicago radio stations:

* WZRD (88.3FM, out of Northeastern Illinois University [NEIU], on the north side).
* WLUW (88.7FM, out of Loyola University - Chicago, also on the north side)
* WRTE (90.5 FM, "Radio Arte", from the National Museum of Mexican Art on the south side)

Since 2007, all three of these radio stations have seen serious internal changes in one way or another:

* WLUW saw control revert back to Loyola University after the end of the conclusion of its joint operating agreement with WBEZ, resulting in among other things the dismissal of its longtime paid staff.
* WRTE was sold in 2012 by the Museum to Chicago Public Media.
* WZRD saw its regular staff locked out from the station in 2012 by a neoliberal University management

These changes have reduced Democracy Now's reach on Chicago's airwaves:

* WZRD removed Democracy Now! entirely off its airwaves, but restored it in the wake of an outcry from listeners and staff, albeit to a less-than-optimal time (9AM)
* WLUW and WRTE both removed the show entirely off its airwaves, despite outcries from the listeners of both radio stations

Though there may yet still be hope for a restoration of WZRD to its longtime community of students and non-student participants, WLUW and WRTE seem less likely to bring the show back. Loyola appears to have changed WLUW into a sort of professional-radio training ground in the hopes of encouraging students who would enroll at Columbia College to enroll in Loyola instead. Meanwhile, Radio Arte's new parent, Chicago Public Media, which runs the main NPR affiliate WBEZ, has long been unreceptive to the show.

In the wake of these changes, the possibilities for other stations are an uncertain bag:

* WHPK (88.5FM, the radio station of the University of Chicago): While the station has been very receptive to the show (and has even aired some episodes of DN! on sporadic occasions), and would help to fill in the south side gap of the show left by Radio Arte, the WHPK schedule is just too crowded to carve out an hour per day, five days a week, with any regularity. Chances of carrying the show: Not good.

* WDCB (90.9 FM, the radio station of the College of DuPage): The signal strength of this station is impressively strong; it can be heard across the whole city. Around 2004 the station used to have more of a news and talk presence, being more "NPR" like, but when the station. It has since converted into an all-jazz format, and though it boasts of news it has not been receptive. Chances of carrying the show: Probably not good.

* WCPT (820AM, previously the Chicago affiliate of Air America Radio): Unlike every other station discussed in this blog post, WCPT is a commercial station, and Democracy Now! has long had an uneasy relationship with the small number of commercial radio stations who carry it. But it has been done: commercial stations have shown that it is possible for commercial stations to carry the show, and sources report that WCPT hasn't dismissed the idea when approached. Chances of carrying the show: Hopeful.

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