iPod killed the radio star

Chicago radio no longer has all that jazz.

The NPR member station in the nation’s third-largest city, WBEZ, has announced that it is switching formatting from music programming to news and public affairs. The majority of the current programming has been jazz. The move also means that the Windy City no longer will have jazz on the radio, at least in a major way.

WBEZ, an independent radio station, has said that it can’t afford to continue to compete with downloadable music, satellite radio, and other modern enemies. Loyal jazz listeners, undoubtedly many of whom have done their share of downloading music in recent months, have made their displeasure known vocally. But the radio station says it is aiming more toward the bottom line, which is the arbiter in today’s cash-focused radio culture.

Independent stations in other large cities have made similar moves in recent months. The difference with WBEZ is that its format, jazz, was a nod to the heritage of Chicago, where so much of America’s jazz and blues have originated or found favor.

The format change doesn’t take effect until next year, and a grass-roots effort has sprung up to try to change the minds of the station’s programmers. For its part, the station says that is has on its side a ton of research, all of which suggests that the format change will bring it more listeners and, ultimately, more money.

As for jazz in Chicago, it will certainly survive, in the form of live performances at the city’s music hotspots and in the form of downloaded favorites at the city’s Wi-Fi hotspots.


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