Noncom deal could set off Boston format war


WGBH is spending $14M to get new sister WCRB-FM in Boston, a combination which at first blush creates a Classical duopoly. But not so fast: The plan is to turn WGBH-FM into an All News outlet, taking on both commercial and noncommercial stations already in the format.

WGBH already uses NPR in between the fine arts programming, one of three stations in the Boston market to do so.

But if it goes to News-Info, the direct competition will be Boston University’s nationally-known WBUR AM & FM. It’s more than a repository for NPR programming, it is the source of four programs – “Car Talk,” “On Point,” “Only A Game” and “Here and Now.”

It is thought that WGBH will rely on its sister WGBH-TV for news programming. WBUR does not have a related television station.

The third noncommercial NPR station in the market is Adult Alternative WUMB-FM, licensed to the University of Massachusetts Boston, which because of its music schedule would not be a factor in the News wars.

On the commercial side is a legendary warhorse, CBS Radio’s WBZ-AM. It is consistently one of the top-rated commercial stations in the market, and is not likely to suffer noticeable ill-effects from another noncom Newser entering the market.

RBR-TVBR observation: Format stare-downs are a fact of life in commercial radio, although less so now than back in the pre-consolidation days. They remain more of a rarity on the noncommercial side of the dial. WGBH will have a challenge overcoming a strong and entrenched competitor.