Christian Radio Competes with NPR

( [email protected] ) Mar 19, 2004 10:21 AM EST

FREDERICK, Md. – WJTM, Frederick County's only locally based Christian station reaching more than 1.2 million listeners in Baltimore and Washington, has been taken over by WJTM-FM, a new Baltimore-based National Public Radio (NPR)-affiliate which broadcasts material that can already be heard from four other radio stations. While the new owner argues that the sold was made in the public’s best interest, two senators and local listeners are offended from the new programs.

“I don't think we need another NPR station because people can get it," said Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md. He and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.

The duplicate material on NPR includes "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Car Talk," which broadcast from four radio stations in Frederick.

Although Anthony Brandon, president and general manager of Your Public Radio Corp., WYPR's owner, said WYPR does offer different material such as an all-Maryland news report, former listeners of WJTM would rather not listen to most of the material on NPR.

Boni Buchanan of Boonsboro disapproves of the low quality of the new programming, and on NPR she objected to how "they were talking about rock 'n' roll and people climbing into the back seat of the car and ... I had to turn it off. I don't want to hear that."

The once Christian radio now even broadcasts a discussion on the homosexual debate but argued from a pro-gay viewpoint.

Rev. Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, puts in perspective the incident with WYPR by noting the demand for radio signals is now greater than in the past.

"As the media markets have grown, the competition for those frequencies has increased and those licenses represented by space on the broadcast dial are becoming more and more valuable," said president of the 1,700-member association.

The two senators opposing the switch have asked the Federal Communications Commission to meet with local listeners to discuss the ownership change.

A spokeswoman of FCC said the organization never held a meeting like the one requested in the past.

Wright expressed hopes that the FCC will make the right decision in favor of the public’s interest.

"How is it in the public interest to have duplication of services and have another group that is not being served? Radio stations are going to find an increasingly inquisitive FCC along those lines."