Letter to the WEFT Programming Committee
I speak as someone who was drawn to WEFT and thrived at WEFT before strip programming had been implemented. I say without hesitation that at that time WEFT was a better radio station than it is today. You had to turn on the radio if you wanted to know what was on WEFT, and I turned it on a lot! It was inconsistent, but the point is that nobody played anything on the radio unless it meant something to them. You wouldn't hear a brilliant composer like Mark Enslin wasting decades of his studied musical knowledge spinning blues music and back-announcing like an anaesthetized 7-11 clerk, essentially doing a radio show that bores even him.
Think of it this way: The Old Timer has a great country show. Does that mean we should have a country show every weekday and find hapless volunteers to host them? There will always be great jazz and blues shows on WEFT hosted by knowledgable and passionate fans of those styles of music. This I applaud.
Now I sometimes listen to the morning menu on my way to work but I literally cringe when I leave the radio on and get in my car at lunch and accidently hear WEFT's daytime programming, because I dislike commercial music such as jazz and blues. (except the Thursday blues show, which I adore) Other people seem more than me to require the reassuring consistency of the same 12-bar chord structure for hours every afternoon so let me just say that WEFT should reflect the desires and interests of its volunteers first, and adhere to formulaic commercial programming second. The current situation-- where we would turn off the transmitter rather than let airshifters create their own programming during the weekdays, while, on the margins of the dying strip, (to give an example I know well) competition for a bi-weekly two hour show featuring live performances by visiting artists is fierce, and proposals for such a show can take months and years to get looked at and even then only when the person proposing the show has friends on the programming committee and has been a WEFT associate for a decade--is silly.
Now I enjoy listening to WEFT the most on Saturday mornings because I know the programming will be quirky and local. And it is worth pointing out that those excellent shows are all grandfathered in, and I expect that a proposal for an essential and inimitable show like the Illinois Labor Hour would have a hard time finding a slot were it to be submitted today.
I don't object to strip programming as a guideline for structuring the week or for filling daytime slots that have no permanent hosts, but I think the emphasis needs to be on original and diverse programming by members of the community. Associates should be explicitly encouraged to propose unique radio shows, and these shows should be WEFT's programming priority, with strip programming as a backup plan. If somebody living in our transmitter radius wants to do an afternoon polka show during one of the blues slots that is being "permasubbed" (an oxymoron), then THAT person should be "fast-tracked" through training and given the full green light/red carpet treatment, whether or not anybody on the programming committee or board of directors is into polka. That is WEFT's mission as I see it. We exist to allow the community access to the airwaves, not to coerce community members to play music they have no real interest in.