COLUMBIA — Paul Pepper signed a contract with radio station KBIA/91.3 FM on Monday, bringing his community content from television to the airwaves.
In May, KOMU announced the “Pepper and Friends” program, which has run for 27 years, would air for the last time on Sept. 18. KOMU General Manager Marty Siddall cited budget issues as the reason for the show’s cancellation.
KBIA General Manager Mike Dunn said bringing Paul Pepper to the radio would allow community members to benefit from the local angle of the programming. The talk show has traditionally featured community organizations.
“The biggest reason for the existence of KBIA is student training and public service, and that public service part makes Paul Pepper a perfect fit for us,” Dunn said. “We think that the kind of program he provides makes Columbia a better place.”
Although the radio show will be 10 minutes long instead of the hour allotted on television, the KBIA version, dubbed “Radio Friends with Paul Pepper,” will feature much of the same subject matter as its television predecessor.
“We talked to Paul about concentrating on two things: The arts community and what we call the service community, which is all the different organizations around the city that provide services to people,” Dunn said.
The show, which debuts Oct. 5, will air Monday through Friday during the Morning Edition. In addition to the radio segments, the show will also be videotaped and placed online for viewers to access at any time.
“We’re real excited about it,” Dunn said. “Our staff is excited, Paul is excited.”
Dunn also said the radio version would give an opportunity for community members who would miss the show to still have access to the content.
Pepper said while he was sad about losing "Pepper and Friends," he was looking forward to continuing to highlight the community on KBIA.
"I feel very good about that because at least we will be able to do some of the segments from 'Pepper and Friends' on KBIA," Pepper said. "I think it's wonderful for the community because what KOMU did by canceling our show was simply silencing a voice in our community. I think KBIA has had the foresight to see that there really is a need for organizations and community. That doesn't mean that I don't feel sad about the end of 'Pepper and Friends.'"
The radio show does not include James Mouser, Pepper's longtime co-host. Dunn said a short segment does not lend itself to having a co-host. Pepper said Mouser, who is a cartoonist for the Fayette newspaper, wants to focus on his art and hopefully become syndicated.
Columbia resident Dan Peek has contested the cancellation of “Pepper and Friends” through letters to media outlets and university officials. Although he hopes KOMU will still bring Pepper back, Peek said he is glad KBIA picked up the program.
“I see that as a very positive thing,” Peek said. “I’m happy that Paul will be on the radio, but I don’t see that excluding him from being on TV. I still do not believe that KOMU will actually go through with canceling ‘Pepper and Friends.’ ”
Peek said a town meeting in response to KOMU’s decision to cancel the show is planned for Aug. 5 in the Arts and Science Building at MU. A protest was held outside of KOMU on July 6 to voice objection to the cancellation.
Pepper said he is surprised and grateful for the community's support.
"The one thing I really want to get across to people is how much James and I both appreciate what people are trying to do to save the show," Pepper said. "I think that one reason people are doing that is because they feel it's their show."
Pepper said he wasn't sure if KOMU would do anything in response to the community protests.
"(Siddall) has told us that he has made his decision, and his decision is final, but there has been an awful lot of outcry," Pepper said.
Dunn said KOMU was made aware of the decision to bring Pepper to KBIA before the contract was signed. Sidall could not be reached for comment Monday.
Pepper’s contract is for six months, which Dunn said would give both parties a chance to try out the partnership. He said he expects that, when the contract is reviewed at the end of six months, they will find Pepper’s time at KBIA to have been positive.