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April 25th, 2007 Julie Sabatier | News Stories
 

Radio daze

Musical chairs at OPB.

     
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I WANT MY MTV? What does OPB consultant Paul Marszalek have in mind to replace Beats and Pieces?
On Sunday nights, Scott Jackson liked to kick back, read the paper and tune in to Oregon Public Broadcasting for Steven Cantor's Beats and Pieces.

The music show defined eclectic, playing everything from jazz and classical to jug bands, electronica and music from around the world.

"[Cantor] would play a lot of things I hadn't heard before, and I've heard a lot of music," says the 52-year-old Jackson, who isn't an OPB member. "It's as though the songs were having a conversation. They fed off of each other."

That conversation ended this month when Jackson along with other Beats and Pieces fans instead heard a syndicated music show called UnderCurrents.

UnderCurrents is a temporary placeholder for Beats and Pieces, which had aired Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights since the late '90s on OPB. The show had an estimated 2,000 listeners, making it one of OPB's lowest-rated shows.

"It's not serving kind of the core, loyal OPB listeners. So, we think this is an opportunity," said OPB President and CEO Steve Bass. An opportunity for what he didn't exactly say, beyond stating evening programming must be "re-thought."

OPB Music Director David Christensen was only slightly less cryptic, explaining that the weekend 9-11 pm slot will go to a local host who will play "more new music and more local music."

OPB plans to announce its new weekend music program sometime in May. But here's one possible clue about what it will be: OPB has enlisted consultant Paul Marszalek, a former vice president of music programming for VH1/MTV Networks.

He's also held senior management positions at KFOG in San Francisco and WXRT in Chicago. Both stations adhere to the Adult Album Alternative format, which aims at young adults who appreciate a broad definition of rock music. Think Regina Spektor and Rufus Wainwright.

"There are noncommercial and commercial AAA stations," Christensen says. "This won't really be exactly like that, but with contemporary music there will be a lot of overlap there."

Bass downplays consultants' role in programming decisions. But OPB's vice president of radio programming, Lynne Clendenin, says consultants are important because they "can provide insight and another voice."

"I tried to see if I could put together sets based on my understanding of what I think they have in mind, and it meant eliminating about 85 percent of what I played," says Beats and Pieces host Steven Cantor. "If programming decisions are to be made solely on the basis of achieving the highest rating, then it becomes unclear to me what the distinction is between a public radio station and a conventional, commercial radio station."

 
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