Like losing a friend

This American Life. It’s a radio show on National Public Radio – more specifically, Public Radio International – that patterns itself as a look inside the odd aspects of American humanity. It takes real stories and tells them to the public, bringing them up from obscurity and setting them along with similarly themed stories from around the world.

It’s hard to explain. Instead, go to the site. Click on Never Heard Us? Then, go to the staff favorites page. Listen to some for free on your computer. It’s a great show.

Ira Glass, This American Life’s meek voiced, literarily inclined producer, hosts the show from Chicago. He threads a common line through a handful of voices throughout his hour on the air, and it has become one of the most loved programs on public radio – especially in our household.

But recently, it disappeared. Our satellite radio was empty when it came time to tune in. Nothing could be found. We wondered what we could do.

Soon we got our answer. When we got to the This American Life homepage, this is the message we found:

Unfortunately, our show is no longer available on Sirius. This was their choice, not ours. If you’d like to register your displeasure, please visit this page.

They didn’t just take the show off. They took the whole Public Radio International channel off. Completely. It’s gone, never to return. It’s all part of their new channel lineup. And it sucks.

This is strike two and a half with Sirius. First, they took away the folk channel, which was more of a blow for Kerrie than for me. Then, they took away Air America, which is more of a matter of principle for me (they did it to even out the left/right slanted radio stations, I believe) than anything. Now, they’ve gotten rid of the Outlaw Country channel and PRI. Outlaw Country was the only country channel I’d ever land on. PRI, well, that’s what I’m complaining about on this post.

Unfortunately, it seems as though they only have room for a certain number of channels on Sirius. This means that every time they want to add yet another Catholic channel or Canadian rock channel (of which we have two and three, respectively, and they all sound the same) they need to bump or combine channels. This is why Outlaw Country was combined with the usual country channel. This is why Folk Town was turned into “Coffee House,” a channel featuring more Lisa Loeb and Natalie Merchant than Joan Baez and Woody Guthrie.

This is why I begin to seethe a little bit more every time I get a new channel lineup. I’m waiting for the college radio (Left of Center) to be merged with the alternative channel. After all, they’re all the same, right? Who needs two public radio channels – we might as well just have one. After all, that’s all that XM has, right?

I started off being the biggest Sirius apologist in the world. They have always been the #2 company, but I’ve stood behind them, rallying them along and shouting their praises to anyone I could think of. They had a great variety. I might not listen to swing music, or old-school country, or left-wing liberal talk radio all the time, but it was nice knowing that I had that choice if I wanted. All of them are gone, now. And my choices are getting less and less varied. I could probably turn on terrestrial radio and find 85% of the stuff they’re playing on Sirius now.

It kind of takes away the exclusiveness of the whole thing.

I understand that Sirius is a business. They need to make money, and they need to move stations around to better serve their customers. If a station isn’t getting very much play – especially a station that doesn’t bring in any advertising dollars and probably costs more than it makes – they need to take a serious look at keeping it.

Public Radio International wasn’t the best channel on Sirius Radio. But it was a great alternative.

Currently, the two public radio stations that Sirius Radio features overlap programming more often than not. They stagger their schedule so that the more popular shows – Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, A Prairie Home Companion – are played twice a day on Saturday and Sunday, which is nice for those of us who miss the first few broadcasts. But it means that both channels have, for the most part, the same programming throughout the week.

Apparently, it hasn’t been much of a concern for the Powers That Be. They’ve left This American Life off of the general NPR channels. It’s one of the most loved shows on radio. But to a nation of Sirius subscribers, it’s gone.

Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy satellite radio. But believe me when I say that there are very few things that keep me hanging onto Sirius. Where are the differences between Sirius and XM? And if Sirius is just going to slowly move towards the same programming, why would I want to stick with them?

After all, we’re getting satellite radio for an alternative, aren’t we?

If you’re a fan of This American Life, or if you’re a Sirius subscriber who’s tired of all of the changes, go here and complain. Even if you don’t have Sirius, think of your fellow (former) PRI listeners. Make your voice heard.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 4th, 2006