Thursday, December 29, 2005


In a move which might make public service broadcasters around the world a little nervous, a group of listeners to Detroit's WDET FM are taking the station to court demanding it either restores local, eclectic music programming or returns the money they donated to keep the station afloat:

"This is a public radio station, and their decision just completely disregarded the public and the community that is loyal to the station and financially supports it," said Kevin Ernst, the lawyer representing a group of listeners. "People contributed for those local programs, not national programs."

Louis Lessem, vice president and general counsel at Wayne State University, which owns WDET, said he has "no interest in litigating this in the press. ... We're sorry the plaintiffs choose to do that."

"We understand the disappointment of the listenership, but we do not believe it [the lawsuit] has any merit and we will fully litigate it," Lessem said.

The station's general manager has issued an open letter telling the listeners that, although they might not like the all-talk national service, it's much better for them than the music programming they paid for:

"Regardless of how you feel, know that these decisions were painstakingly difficult," Coleman said. "The rationale for the changes were very straightforward--to save and strengthen this important public radio service."

But, of course, if you "save" a service simply by throwing away everything that people value about it, you might wonder what the point is.

The first signs of trouble at WDET came with the sudden departure of Martin Bandyke, the afternoon show host who had been with the station for over twenty years.