WMNF-FM program director plans ambitious overhaul of Tampa community radio station
Randy Wynne knows it sounds like a contradiction. Or a seriously ironic stand.
But to keep Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM (88.5) from constantly reacting to the long shadow of public radio rival WUSF-FM (89.7), Wynne, WMNF's program director, wants to make one more huge, wrenching change.
For some time, Wynne has been telling people close to the station about a new schedule he'd like to implement by the year's end. It would drastically reshape WMNF's programming, creating a newsy magazine show at 6 a.m. for longtime news director Rob Lorei and pushing music into a block that would air from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
The station's homegrown newscast would air at 4 p.m. weekdays, with a call-in show airing at 5 p.m. Pacifica Radio's liberal-oriented news show Democracy Now would air at 8 a.m. weekdays and the 10 a.m. rebroadcasts of NPR's show Fresh Air would disappear (it already airs twice a day on WUSF).
From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, the station's music shows would be arranged according to genre each night, to help listeners remember the schedule. So blues shows might air Mondays, alternative rock on Wednesdays, folks on Thursdays and R&B on Fridays. Talk shows which once aired in midday such as Talking Animals or Book Babes might air at 6 p.m. (with at least one possible exception; Wynne said he would work hard to accommodate one of WMNF's most symbolically important shows, the Muslim-centered True Talk, wherever the hosts need to schedule it).
Wynne says such a schedule brings WMNF in line with the typical rhythm of most radio stations -- where listeners are given more information-oriented shows in mornings and during drive time, with music provided in midday and night, when people are more likely to be listening for leisure.
The move is also a reaction to WUSF moving its classical music programming to another channel and loading up with news and public affairs shows throughout the day. WMNF saw its own public affairs shows pull in half the donations they usually provide during a recent pledge drive, leaving the program director convinced fans who once turned to his station when WUSF went into classical music were now sticking with the other guys.
"We used to be a station that was built around reacting to what WUSF did," Wynne said. "In a way, what they've done now is free us up to be the kind station that matches how people use radio."
But if there is one knock against WMNF, it's that the hardcore volunteers, staffers and fans who keep the station going are seriously resistant to change -- especially big changes enacted quickly. Wynne is convinced his ideas are bold and reasonable enough to win wide support.
The devil of this change may lie in the details. Wynne suggests moving The Women's Show from Saturdays to a 6 p.m. weekday slot, placing the ten best eclectic music programmers in the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekday slots and shaving a lineup of about a dozen weekday public affairs shows down to five one-hour slots each week. Will WMNF drop an NPR affiliation which Wynne says costs about $30,000 annually?
Lots of programmers will see longtime schedules disrupted -- some facing their first big changes in decades -- under the idea of making the station's material more closely resemble the patterns of every other radio station.
That may be a tough sell to an outlet which prides itself on individuality and being different than typical radio stations.
Now that Wynne's trial balloon has been released on this media blog, I guess we'll all see where the fan reaction lands.