'World Cafe' hopes to broaden public radio appeal

October 17, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

PHILADELPHIA -- Station WXPN-FM's (88.5) "World Cafe" is making its way into the world.

Actually, it only goes to five other public radio stations, in such far-flung outposts as Duluth, Minn., Laramie, Wyo., and Spindale, N.C. Even so, public radio executives from here to Hawaii are watching response to the program, which began national broadcast on Monday.

The reason is simple. If "World Cafe," with host David Dye and his eclectic mix of rhythm and blues, acoustic rock and just-out-of-the-box pop, takes hold outside Philadelphia, it could sow the seed of the biggest boon to public radio in years.

In public radio, there are three major streams of programming: classical, jazz, and news and information. Each stream has its own small but loyal audience.

"What we're trying to do is establish a fourth major stream of programming for public radio," explains Mark Fuerst, executive producer of "World Cafe" and station manager of WXPN, a child of the University of Pennsylvania.

What "World Cafe" seeks to do -- indeed, what WXPN has sought to do in the last three years -- is to expand the base of public radio, to attract a younger, more ethnically diverse group of listeners.

This week begins a test of whether WXPN's success can be bottled and exported to other towns and cities. If it can, many other public radio stations will probably follow suit.

In the beginning, the two-hour "World Cafe," which airs from 10 a.m. to noon locally, will be broadcast on Fordham University's station in New York City and on stations in Duluth, Minn., Spindale, N.C., Laramie, Wyo., and Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Still, Fuerst says he expects "World Cafe" to be on 50 public radio stations within a year or so.

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