Executives of WGBH and Public Radio International say all the right things in this morning's Globe story. That PRI will remain independent after its acquisition by WGBH. That the deal won't affect PRI's distribution deal with WGBH's crosstown nemesis, WBUR. But c'mon. Despite the genteel face everyone likes to put on things in public broadcasting, this is a smart, hardball move by WGBH in its ongoing campaign to catch and overtake WBUR in local radio. One might almost say cutthroat, but public broadcasting people only use such words when talking about, you know, Somali pirates.
PRI distributes "This American Life" and other popular shows to stations including WBUR. And it also syndicates WBUR's "Here & Now." Despite all the nice talk abut how the WGBH deal isn't going to affect that, it's impossible to believe that 'GBH won't have an inside track to get national shows like "This American Life" the next time the contract comes up. And to get their own shows syndicated. They'll all deny it now, but just watch. And if you were running WBUR, would you want to entrust your own shows to a syndicator controlled by your crosstown rival?
They'll say this is all about strengthening WGBH's national profile and PRI's finances and, you know, better serving listeners. But I bet there were a few high-fives behind closed doors at 'GBH HQ when they sealed the deal. After the bad PR they earned with their recent jazz massacre, and the wide lead 'BUR has in local ratings, this is one round that goes to the challenger.