Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Public radio offers many choices in Bellingham


Mostly due to translators (or, should these be called "repeaters?") there are a lot of public radio choices in the air over Bellingham. I remember, back in the 1980s when there were nearly none.

We now have a translator for KOUW, Seattle's big non commercial news and talk voice. It's at 90.3; KQOW. KUOW also has "KUOW2" with similar programming. There's a lot of public radio stuff out there like "The Ideas Network" from Wisconsin Public Radio, for instance. In Bellingham, KUOW2 is on 90.7 and no need for a digital receiver here.

Then we also have 2 voices from Northwest Public Radio. That's another NPR station based out of Pullman, WA. NWPR offers classical music on 91.7 and news/talk on 104.7; KZAZ.

We also have a translator for KPLU in Tacoma. It features jazz, but I'm not much of a jazz fan so I tend to forget about that one. At least I'm not much of a KPLU jazz fan. Some jazz is more interesting, but the jazz I've heard on KPLU sounds monotonous to me.

Near downtown Bellingham, one can get KMRE at 102.3, the voice of the radio museum. Mostly old time radio music, but has a few features; like the Chuckanut Radio Hour; a locally produced drama.

I tend to forget we also have the voice of Western Washington University, KUGS at 89.3. It's mostly rock music, or maybe they don't call it rock anymore. Hip Hop, Trance, Rap, Techno, whatever. I haven't tuned in for a while.

On the AM band, we have one of the only Progressive Talk stations around. Possibly the only one in the Pacific Northwest. KBAI on 930 AM. Most of the time, it's the Progressive Talk network, but it does have a real informative local interview show called The Joe Show. Live and local with lots of guests at noon each weekday. Also available via podcast. KBAI is owned by the same company that brings us KGMI, another talk voice in this area. Both are commercial, rather than Public stations, but they are worth noting.

We are close to Vancouver, BC so some of their stations reach us with ease, like CBU Radio on both AM and FM with differing flavors of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Mostly news and talk on 88.1 or 690 AM and mostly music on other FM frequencies out of Vancouver and Victoria.

For the most part, it seems like commercial broadcast radio is dying across the USA. Especially on AM, it seems like the hedge fund managers who have bought up nearly all the stations think that all listeners care about is sports. Who needs radio for that anyway? One can go directly to the game you want on the web.

While commercial radio seems to be dying, public radio seems to get stronger. In San Francisco Bay Area, a commercial station called KGO was top rated news talk radio for years until more recently when it began slipping in the ratings. Last year it was bought by a company called Cumulus which took off most of it's talk programming and sent it even deeper in the ratings. Meanwhile, PBS's KQED is said to be top in Bay Area ratings with thoughtful shows like Forum (run by a former KGO host) which I enjoy via podcast.

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