Two popular National Public Radio programs that air on WUTC-FM 88.1 — "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Car Talk"— are being replaced because of budget constraints, officials said.
Starting Saturday, "Music City Roots," which features bluegrass, folk, country and rock music from the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, will replace "A Prairie Home Companion" at 6 p.m., according to Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communication and marketing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"Ask Me Another," a comedy show that features trivia, riddles, jokes and mystery guests, will replace "Car Talk" in the 10 a.m. Saturday time slot.
On Sunday at 6 p.m., "The Vinyl Cafe," in which host Stuart McLean tells stories about Dave, the hapless operator of a smalltown secondhand record store, will replace a repeated "Car Talk" episode.
According to Cantrell, making the changes will save the station about $50,000. The yearly programming budget for the public broadcasting station is $300,000, he said.
"Programming decisions can be very difficult, but we have to take steps to ensure the fiscal health of the station," he said. "We realize that these programs have had loyal listeners in our area, including myself. But we hope listeners will give these new programs a listen and become fans of them, as well."
Prentice Hicks, owner of Wauhatchie Glassworks and a regular WUTC listener, said the loss of the two shows doesn't upset him as much as the process for how programming decisions are made at the station. WUTC is a public-supported station, he said, and the public should have more of a say in what it airs.
"Listeners have no input into the programming process and how decisions occur or don't occur," he said. "I used to take my own stuff down there for their drives as giveaways, and I don't anymore."
Bryan Stone, another listener, said the two new shows have some appeal to him and he plans to give each a try.
"I know the 'Prairie Home' show is pretty popular, but I love the sound of the new show 'Music City Roots,'' Stone said. "I'll definitely give it a listen."
WUTC will begin its annual fall subscription drive Monday. Cantrell said it's possible that "A Prairie Home Companion" could return to the station, but it is not likely any time soon.
"I never like to say 'never,' but things would have to change. We have to be fiscally sound," he said.
"The 'Car Talk' guys are not making any new shows, so that is not likely to come back," Cantrell said. "['Prairie Home' host] Garrison Keillor actually announced he wasn't going to be doing the show any more and then said he would. When he did, the price went up."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...