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WMNF lets show keep its Sunday slot

By KATHRYN WEXLER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002

TAMPA -- Another dust-up over a proposed programming change at the area's community radio station will result in no change at all.

Plans to move one of WMNF's most popular shows, the Sunday Simcha, to a different day drew hundreds of phone calls, most of them from Jewish fans.

Fine, says Randy Wynne, WMNF's beleaguered program director. The show can stay on Sundays.

"We asked the listeners, and they said they couldn't listen on Tuesday," Wynne said. "It's an important show for us."

During the last fundraising drive in October, about 155 fans of Simcha donated more than $10,000 to the station. The number of pledges outstripped every other show on 88.5-FM, although morning news shows brought in more money overall from fewer donors.

WMNF was blasted last month when it announced several program changes, which included focusing on black listeners, axing one of two Latino music shows and requiring program hosts to reapply for their jobs.

Those plans were scaled back after an outcry from station volunteers and the public.

The proposed schedule change for Simcha drew complaints from between 500 and 600 listeners. The show, which means "celebration" in Hebrew, aired on Sunday for 23 years, said Mike Eisenstadt, host of the program for 18 years.

"They wanted to move it to Tuesday evening, which, in my opinion, would have been the death knell of the show," said Eisenstadt, who also is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Tampa Jewish Federation.

"A Jewish show belongs on Sunday," Eisenstadt said.

Simcha is a two-hour mix of Jewish music, culture, current events and local announcements.

Bruce Epstein, of Pinellas Park, helped mount the campaign to keep Simcha put. The retired pediatrician posted notice of the program change on his Web site and asked for feedback. It poured in overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the show on Sunday.

That information was passed along to the station.

"To the credit of WMNF," Epstein said, "they listened."

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