Less than three months after Harry Shearer's long-running radio program "Le Show" was dropped from the airwaves by its longtime Los Angeles area host, KCRW-FM (89.9), the Santa Monica public station's smaller crosstown rival KCSN-FM (88.5) has announced plans to resume broadcasting the show in the same 10 a.m. Sunday slot it occupied at KCRW.
"I'm pleased and proud to have 'Le Show' carried on a station (and associated online stream) that really wants it," Shearer told The Times on Tuesday by email from London.
KCRW opted in April to eliminate Shearer's weekly mix of news, humor, political satire and social commentary from its on-air programming, while continuing to run it on the station's website. "Le Show" is carried on nearly 100 other stations, predominantly public, around the country.
KCSN General Manager Sky Daniels, who previously brought KCRW's former music director and "Morning Becomes Eclectic" host Nic Harcourt to the Cal State Northridge-based station, said in a statement, "Harry is a rare and thoughtful talent. 'Le Show' reflects not only Harry's insight into our social condition, but also his true love for broadcast radio as a medium."
That speaks to part of the changing programming philosophy at KCRW. On making the recent changes, KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro told The Times that it was part of a two-pronged effort to move effectively into the age of podcasts, smartphones and tablets.
"The old way was always about radio," Ferro said. "You've got your bandwidth. You've got 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that's all you get. KCRW has to be more than a place on the radio dial."
Daniels, who also plans to webcast "Le Show" over KCSN's Internet site, http://www.kcsn.org, said that continuing with the traditional broadcast is vital.
"It carries forward the great tradition of radio's 'theater of the mind,'" Daniels said. "When we sat and discussed 'Le Show' coming to KCSN, I was touched by Harry's passion for what the medium of radio can be. As Harry says, 'There has to be a "pro" in provocateur.' Harry is a unique pro in every sense of the word."
Shearer, the 69-year-old satirist, writer, documentarian, voice actor and musician, said he had no qualms about aligning himself with the David of Los Angeles noncommercial radio stations after nearly 30 years with the Goliath that is KCRW.
"I did enjoy a long and rewarding relationship with KCRW, one in which I was accorded absolute freedom within FCC guidelines," Shearer said in his email. "That ended suddenly, as you know, without warning...."
Shearer expressed enthusiasm for joining the lineup at upstart KCSN, which has attempted to position itself with a wide-ranging music format Daniels calls "smart rock" and other unconventional programming.
"Not only is ['Le Show'] not standard public-radio fare," Shearer said, "but a good deal of the show is devoted to making fun of standard public-radio fare, and, as more and more [public] radio stations are being convinced to make all their programming sound 'consistent' — a la commercial radio formatting — a radio home that makes room for something different is becoming rarer and, to me at least, more valuable."
KCSN's biggest challenge in establishing a foothold in the competitive Southern California radio market has been its relatively low signal strength and reach, which extends only to portions of the greater Los Angeles area.
KCSN officials have been working to boost the station's power and further broaden its coverage with the aid of signal boosters and over the Internet.
"Sky has been nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging from day one, making this process as easy as possible," Shearer said. "I had a great meeting with him before leaving for London, and he seems to understand the unpredictable nature of the program. He acknowledged the signal issues and mentioned the fixes to come."
KCRW replaced "Le Show" on the air Sunday mornings with the "TED Radio Hour," hosted by Guy Raz, an offshoot of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks, monologues on offbeat topics that have become popular pass-alongs in social media.
Along with shifting "Le Show" to online-only presence, KCRW officials did the same with veteran host Tom Schnabel's Sunday afternoon world music and jazz show. The station also dropped its "Weekend All Things Considered" shows on Saturday and Sundays to allow a steady stream of music programs to be uninterrupted by the news and public affairs report.
Daniels said the first broadcast of "Le Show" on KCSN will be this Sunday.
"At Sky's urging," Shearer said, "KCRW is getting more warning than they gave me, which tells me he's a stand-up guy."