Monday, June 02, 2008

Fair Game Bites the Dust

So I just heard that Fair Game with Faith Salie has been canceled; the last episode aired May 30th. Primo bummer - one of, if not the, only pubradio shows geared specifically for the twenty/thirtysomething audience and apparently it just never caught on: a stated reason for the cancellation is low carriage. Apparently after 17 months only 25 stations were airing it.

I'll grant ya, that was a more fair shake than what Pop Vultures got, but I suspect they both failed for the same reasons: most pubradio PD's are...regardless of their age, gender or race...effectively acting like stodgy old white men. I say that because most of pubradio's big donors are, in reality, stodgy old white men, and thus the PD's program their stations to cater to that audience. Some don't, but a lot'll be hard-pressed to find a more risk-averse person than your average Program Director at a major-market station. He/she knows that one slip up could cost them thousands of listeners and thus millions of dollars. No wonder they're risk-averse! Thusly, one could argue that Fair Game is ahead of its time (sooner or later those old white men will gradually be replaced with younger generations)...or just argue that when you're up against that ingrained a mentality, it takes a looooong time to break through. Maybe 17 months wasn't long enough...maybe it would've taken five full years. But that is, I concede, a long time to be funding 13 fulltime staff members without seeing much in results.

Oh well, that's a rant for another day. I wanted to focus on something else: the supposed "low carriage". I take issue with that, because while it was only 25 stations, it was 25 stations in several major markets: Boston, New York, Dallas, Seattle, Miami. Also some of the bigger "secondary markets" like Charlotte (NC), Las Vegas and Columbus (OH).

Admittedly, there were several major markets it wasn't heard in: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago or Los Angeles (well, it was on a Thousand Oaks station, which is near LA to the west, but it's by no means an "LA Station"). But still, to get half of the top ten markets in less than two years is not too shabby, even if the airtimes were, by and large, not so great. And their podcast following is huge, some 100,000 listeners.

I wonder if this highlights the difficulty of getting stations to pick up a daily show vs. a once-a-week show. There's almost always room somewhere on a Saturday or Sunday to shove in another show...even if it's a lousy timeslot. But weekdays are tougher; between ME, ATC, TOTN, and Fresh Air, you've already got at least seven hours...usually more like ten...committed already. Most stations also air Diane Rehm or OnPoint, and often repeat it, and an hour or two of the BBC, so there's one-half to two-thirds of the day (and all of the primetime hours) taken before you get to any of the "non flagship" programs.

Oh well, it's a shame...I was seriously thinking about picking up Fair Game to round out our upcoming Ithaca station, WITH. Probably would've played nicely there.

1 comment:

George O'Connor said...

I just came across your blog while I was trying to find out why Fair Game was no longer on the schedule at WNYC in New York. Very sad, definitely one of my favorite shows on the radio. I'm a stay-at-home illustrator and would often listen to the podcasts during lunchtime instead of SoundCheck. Oh well, too bad NPR couldn't commit more to pursuing the younger demographic...