The most notable programming change will be Reitzes debuting an arts program from 10 to noon on weekdays on the FM dial to talk about a wide range of music, dance, fine arts and plays in metro Atlanta.
At noon, WABE will introduce a local news/talk program with an as-yet unnamed host. It will run at least one hour and may go two. The station is still hunting for a specific nationally distributed show to fill the 2 p.m. hour. At 9 a.m., WABE will air an extra hour of "Morning Edition." The rest of WABE's schedule will not change.
Chief Operating Officer John Weatherford said in an interview today that WABE has spent several years doing research and strategic planning to set these changes in motion. He downplayed the impact of Georgia Public Broadcasting airing news/talk programming on 88.5/WRAS-FM since June.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction to whatever GPB is doing," Weatherford said. "It was protracted and well thought out." (WABE's chairman Louis Sullivan blasted the deal in July, calling it "an unwarranted duplication of service. It is a waste of Georgia's tax dollars that could be better allocated elsewhere.")
He said focus groups began in 2009 and strategic planning went on from 2010 to 2012 with board approval in 2013.
Weatherford also said classical music will be available on the HD2 channel, with Reitzes expanding her Second Cup show from its current 9 to noon to 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The only difference: far fewer people listen to the HD2 channel than the FM dial.
He said the current news staff of about 12 people will expand to 19 to accommodate all the new programming. Some folks have already been hired.
Weatherford, since he arrived at the station a decade ago, has greatly expanded WABE's local news staff over that time period while growing the station's budget. The station overall has held up well financially under Weatherford's stewardship.
Although there will likely be grousing from classical music fans, the ratings for WABE's talk programming has always far exceeded that of its classical music, often by 3 to 1 margins.
In September, among 25 to 54 year olds, "Morning Edition" garnered a 5 share, ranked sixth overall. The mid-day classical music? a 1.6 share, ranked 21st.
WABE even cut fundraising during its fall campaign from 1 to 3 p.m. each day with no real adverse effect.
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