Letter: Missing the local hosts at BPR

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a longtime fan and supporter of WCQS, now a part of Blue Ridge Public Radio, I am saddened that WCQS/BPR management has decided to go with a nationally syndicated classical music service during weekday morning periods, “Classical 24,” using nonlocal hosts. The weekday afternoon classical music segment is produced by Joe Brant of WDAV in Davidson, N.C. This follows the retirement of local music host Chip Kaufmann.

So now more of our local financial contributions to BPR apparently will go to organizations such as Minnesota Public Radio, aka American Public Media, and Public Radio International, which create and distribute the national classical music service, instead of supporting local music hosts and local jobs.

At least to my knowledge, BPR has done this without explaining the change publicly, except for a brief note on the BPR website. “Classical 24” hosts purposefully disguise the fact that they are not local, giving only their names and making no reference to where they are located. In the afternoon, WDAV’s Joe Brant generally presents classical programming without any commentary.

It also has been announced that Program Director Barbara Sayer will soon retire. This follows the departure of a number of other longtime local staffers besides Chip Kaufmann, such as News Director David Hurand and Music Director Dick Kowal, among those who helped create and grow the WCQS that we Asheville natives, along with many transplants, love. Happily, BPR still does have some local program hosts and reporters.

However, overall I see this as just another cog in the ever-growing cloud machine that is turning Asheville into a franchised, syndicated city, instead of a place with its own unique roots and culture.

— Lan Sluder

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted BPR with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Program Director Barbara Sayer: “We miss our local hosts, too. Both Dick Kowal, our former full-time music director, and Chip Kaufmann, our former part-time host, brought immediacy and local connections to our listeners and to our organization. We hope to hire a new staff member in the coming year. We miss the additional local content and will be seeking a full-time, professional host and producer who can make partnerships with local/regional classical music performers and purveyors relevant for everyone.

“In the meantime, as an interim solution, we are lucky to have a live, professional, public radio classical music service that we can tap into for our morning music. WDAV has been a partner with BPR for many years, producing broadcasts from the Brevard Music Center with our staff and now, also, bringing two hours of classical music to listeners in the afternoon.

“In the last two years, Blue Ridge Public Radio has hired a full-time cultural reporter and a full-time regional news reporter. These are talented and dedicated staff members who live here, work here and care about our region. And we take our role as a participant in and a convener of conversations about the future of our region seriously.”


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3 thoughts on “Letter: Missing the local hosts at BPR

  1. James Cassara

    I have to wonder, did the letter writer do the sensible thing and contact WCQS before writing this letter? Going directly to the source would have been the mature thing to do.

    • Curious

      It wasn’t a lack of maturity on the letter writer’s part, I would imagine, but a desire to share his concern with the community, so others who have the same concern could have an opportunity to be informed. The response from BPR was very useful. It would also have been useful if BPR had been more proactive with its listeners and made their plans known, perhaps on their website. I’m curious if others also regret the lack of local music hosts and local music coverage at BPR.

      • James Cassara

        Fair enough, but I still think going directly to the source is nearly always the better approach.

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