Tuning into WETA the past few mornings before 8am I couldn't help but notice that there have been some changes. Not a slight tweak of the format, but rather a radical regime change. Leaving in its wake BBC World, World Have Your Say, and other perspective-broadening programs.
Many friends have offered their own explanation/rationalization for the change; however, I find them all somewhat irrelevant as I drive along sipping my Starbucks, scanning the radio spectrum for options offering ojective reporting and insightful, yet balanced, interpretations of the day's events. Seems like my options are the "blank" and "blank" in the morning shows who prefer to talk about last night's mind-blowing episode of American Idol using naughty words whose meaning can be misconstrued into something dirty or the Christian news channel spoon-feeding me why what happened yesterday harkens the impending apocolypse of tomorrow.
But are they my only options?
For years and years I have had the mantras "commercial free" radio, "listener supported", "fair and balanced" hammered into my head during annual pledge drives. Until recently, this has been true. However, the corporate sponsorship tag lines have grown longer and longer sounding suspiciously like commercials, there is nothing "fair and balanced" about classical music (it takes no positions), and as for listener support - only time will tell. What is clear is that with satellite radio there are truly commercial free options available- no longer does NPR have a lock on that commodity.
Having access to news and information from outside the US provides a different perspective, a self-awareness, that is not available from the media outlets within the US. These have grown more entertainment-oriented, commercially influenced, and polarized. When masses of people are tuning in Jon Stewart's Daily Show to get a fresh look at political events - we are lacking for independent media. For me, the BBC provided that fresh look at the US's standing in global affairs. Programs like World Have Your Say shared the opinions, beliefs, biases, prejudices of folks around the world offering access to primary source sentiment. Rather than having some talking head explain to me what folks in Belgium are thinking, we could hear it for ourselves - from them. WETA successfully provided this service to those in and around the DC beltway for years - sadly they have moved on.
xm radio offers BBC World for a mere $142.95 annual subscription that is under $12 per month and they'll throw in a Car Talk mug for good measure.
I know where my pledge money will be going - how about you?