(The online Merriam-Webster dictionary aptly defines a "carpetbagger" as a person from the northern United States who went to the South after the American Civil War to make money.)
The problem was that while the powerful 37,000 watt signal of WPBI at 90.7, the former WXEL, could be heard throughout Palm Beach County, the news and information programming was moved to WPBI-News, at 101.9 with its weak 250 watt signal which could not be heard in most of the county. Some people could manage to get their NPR news and information from the NPR stations in Fort Pierce or Miami (as I was able to do) but many could not. WPBI-News arrogantly suggested that these deprived listeners purchase HD radios which could receive their programming or hear it streamed on the internet.
American Public Media enlisted a top Washington law firm specializing in communications law to defend itself against little old me, sitting at my desktop in my den. I’m sure their bill was in the tens of thousands of dollars.
For example, they countered my argument about 250 watt WPBI-News not having a strong enough signal to serve the county by pointing out it could be heard in all of "greater West Palm Beach," artfully confusing a city with a population of 100,000 and the County with thirteen times as many residents for the "benefit" of the FCC. They also objected to my using the occasion of the license renewal application to raise broader questions concerning the programming practices of WPBI, even suggesting that I acted improperly in one of my letters published in the Palm Beach Post which encouraged people who objected to the station's programming to send their complaints to the FCC rather than write to the newspaper. While the FCC's ultimate decision (two paragraphs below) regarding programming content was based on a station's licensee's right to free speech, WPBI's lawyers were not reluctant to attack that right on my part saying that the renewal of a license was not a proper forum for my arguments. (I had no other avenue to the FCC.) And when I included a subsequent lead editorial from the Post in which they questioned the manner in which WPBI was providing news and information programming (on the 250 watt station), the lawyers brushed this off as merely a "news article."
I suspect that APM's business plan of transmitting its Minnesota-based classical music programming to stations it owned throughout the country, maintaining just minimal staffs locally, and expending just enough resources to meet the FCC's minimum requirements for local programming for those stations, and dealing with local problems like the "news and information" situation they inherited from WXEL in a "bare bones" manner, just didn't work in South Florida.
This is not to say, however, that APM's independently produced programs such as "Prairie Home Companion" which they provide (at a price) to NPR stations regardless of ownership throughout the nation are not excellent. (APM did indeed broadcast "Prairie Home Companion," for example, on 250 watt WPBI-News where few could hear it but not on 37,000 watt WPBI). But this production aspect is a part of APM''s operation which is separate and apart from their ownership of NPR stations.
It is hoped that other potential buyers for WPBI can be found. If that happens, WPBI might be turned into something operated in the interest of the residents of Palm Beach County providing a reasonable mix of news, information and classical music programming, rather than its present money-losing combination of 24 hours of classical music with news and information formats shunted to a pathetically weak broadcast signal. I don’t think this story is over yet.
Greece - A Balkan Contradiction