WAMU, which has provided a home for bluegrass music in our nation’s capitol since July 1967, has made the decision to switch to an all news and information format starting January 1, 2017. As a result, their bluegrass streaming service, BluegrassCountry.org, and associated HD and terrestrial radio broadcasts will terminate at that time.
The station, a NPR affiliate with ties to American University, is hoping to find new ownership for Bluegrass Country between now and the end of the year, so that the bluegrass music and the familiar voices of their on-air staff, can continue to be broadcast worldwide as before.
In an interview yesterday, WAMU General Manager J.J. Yore explained that since he arrived at the station about 18 months ago, he has been working to formulate long terms plans for WAMU going forward.
“We commissioned a strategic consulting company to help us develop a strategic plan, and one of the elements of that plan was to determine what the role and future of music would be for WAMU. Following that, we commissioned an outside company that analyzes public media companies, and asked them to help us determine what the future should be for bluegrass at the station.
Based on demographic changes in the DC market, they determined that the news and information focus was more important to area residents than music programming. We were faced with some tough choices about resources, and decided that we would look for a new owner for Bluegrass Country.”
He was also at pains to establish that they are not looking for a cash offer for Bluegrass Country, so much as a future home for the long-establish brand and the many people who work there. “What we are looking for is someone with the ability to keep this going… someone who can be a viable owner,” is how he described the search which begins today.
Katy Daley, Bluegrass Country morning host and Managing Producer added hopefully that things will go on as before for the time being.
“For 49 years, WAMU has been a strong supporter of bluegrass music, a far longer run than most of us who were here from the early days would have expected. And while saddened by the decision, I understand it and why it was made. Over the next six months while we try to identify a new owner, we’ll be as committed as ever to bring our listeners the best in bluegrass.
We ask that artists and labels keep sending us their CDs, and bands keep coming in to perform live and for interviews as they always have.”
By 5:00 p.m. today (July 7), WAMU will provide information regarding their request for proposals to assume ownership of Bluegrass Country online. They are willing to discuss plans to move all station operations to a new studio facility, or to work out rental agreements to keep the service housed within their Washington, DC operations hub. Likewise, they are open to helping new management retain the license to broadcast on 105.5 FM, a translator that they currently lease.
The HD radio channel where the broadcast currently lives is only authorized for non-commercial radio transmission, but otherwise WAMU would be open to proposals for both continued non-commercial broadcast or a switch to commercial radio.
The existing music library will be donated to the new owners, including the vast library of previous Bluegrass Country programs.
According to Yore, their primary goal is to reach an agreement with new owners that sees this popular online service continue without interruption when 2017 rolls around.
Katy reminded us of the long tradition of bluegrass in DC through WAMU by pointing out that “founding fathers” Gary Henderson and Dick Spottswood, who helped bring bluegrass to WAMU FM in 1967, still host regular shows on Bluegrass Country.
Interested parties are urged to read the Request For Proposals online. The current schedule requires that proposals be received by October 17, with opportunities to make presentations beginning a week later. Negotiations will continue through November with a new owner selected in December.
However this transition occurs, long time DC-area residents and online fans worldwide owe a debt of gratitude to WAMU for facilitating bluegrass music for so many years. Let’s all hope that new owners can be found to keep the signal going.
Long live Bluegrass Country!