Public Radio International parting ways with This American Life

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Host Ira Glass of "This American Life."

Host Ira Glass of “This American Life.”

Public Radio International will stop distributing the one-hour radio program “This American Life” this summer, ending a 17-year business relationship between the public radio distributor and the Chicago-based program.

The show, which is produced by Chicago-based public radio station WBEZ, had been distributed by PRI since 1997. The show was sent out to over 500 public radio stations across the country and made available as a free downloadable podcast as part of the distribution agreement.

The latter appears to be what caused the show and the distributor to part ways.

“Looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we’re growing – especially on the digital side of things, which we’ve always done without PRI – both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways,” This American Life host Ira Glass said in a statement last week.

During pledge drives over the years, Glass and others at WBEZ have often cited the high cost of bandwidth associated with distributing the program online; in 2011, WBEZ shelled out over $100,000 in costs associated with the podcast of This American Life. Glass’ statement, as well as those offered by PRI, hint that the show wanted to do more digital content, not less.

Glass said the loss of PRI as a distributor won’t affect the production of the show or its distribution online as a podcast. In addition, Glass said the show will continue to be distributed to the over 500 public radio stations that air it throughout the week, “they just won’t be getting it through PRI.”

Instead, it appears Public Radio Exchange (PRX) will begin distributing the show after July 1, according to Chicago media journalist Robert Feder. PRX already has a working relationship with the show: The company designed and launched an iPhone app for the show in 2010. PRX also distributes other shows produced by WBEZ, including “American Routes” and “The Moth Radio Hour.”

PRX and WBEZ have not officially commented on Feder’s report.

In addition to being a digital distribute of public radio programs, PRX operates its own channel on SiriusXM satellite radio. Currently, This American Life airs on SiriusXM Public Radio; it’s unclear if the program will move to the PRX channel after July 1.

Chicago Tribune: PRI to cease distributing This American Life
Robert Feder: PRX tapped to distribute This American Life