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College and community stations catch flak for Polka cuts and homeless tweets

WMUAAmherst, University of Massachusetts campus radio station WMUA-FM is having a Polka crisis. The Daily Hampshire has the deets. Apparently the signal is sunsetting some Polka shows, among them “Polka Bandstand” and “Early Bird Polka.” Plus there will be a general scaling back of Saturday Polka programming from twelve to four hours.

This has not gone well with the station area’s Polka community. There’s even a petition on to save the shows. And I quote:

In the 36 years polkas have been on the airwaves, their shows have raised nearly a half a million dollars from polka supporters. Now, a month and a half after having the station’s annual fundraiser (of which the polka shows raised $24,000 in 20 hours). Station management wants to reduce 12hrs. of polka programming to 4hrs. This is a disgrace to the Polish Community who has supported this station for all these years.

Polkanomics aside, the larger context of this move is a UMass administration decision to reduce community member programming at WMUA and upsize student involvement with the station. Jennifer Waits has some background on this in her recent college radio year in review column. Last I checked the pro-Polka programming petition had 1124 signers. Judging from the comments, they’re pretty pissed. On the other hand it would be interesting to know more about what the students think.

Tone FMIn any event, a similar level of grumpiness has manifested itself over at Taunton UK based community radio signal Tone FM since the station tweeted a comment about homelessness that various readers pronounced “vile.” 

“In town today? Need a rest?” the tweet asked. “Perhaps this attractive looking bedroom is what you need.” The post was accompanied by some photos of a small homeless encampment next to what looks like a vacant store.

I must confess that when I saw the tweet, I interpreted it as a bitter lament about homelessness in the area. But other readers thought that Tone FM was joking, and that’s when things went downhill.

“Help people, don’t kick them down,” read one pushback tweet. “Horribly flippant thing to say,” declared another. The station has apologized.

My free (and obvious) advice: it’s way too easy to get in trouble on Twitter, so be careful. If you really want to piss off your listeners, focus on programming changes instead.

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