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Former NPR Host Bob Edwards To Be XM's New Morning Star

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page A01

Radio host Bob Edwards, who drew millions of listeners to National Public Radio for three decades but was demoted earlier this year, is taking his signature voice to a competing radio universe, according to Edwards and executives of Washington-based XM Satellite Radio.

Starting Oct. 4, Edwards will host his own morning show on a new channel being launched by XM, as the growing subscription radio service makes its move into public-radio programming.

Bob Edwards samples his new morning perch at XM Satellite Radio's facilities in Northeast Washington. (John Harrington)

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Edwards, who was unceremoniously dumped as anchor of NPR's "Morning Edition" in March, prompting widespread public protests, will bring the blend of news, talk and interviews he was famous for at NPR to the new "Bob Edwards Show," airing 8 to 9 a.m. daily -- opposite "Morning Edition." The show will repeat immediately afterward.

"They want to give me a program, so I can continue to host and be heard every day instead of occasionally, as I would have been at NPR," Edwards said Tuesday while driving around Maine as part of a three-month book tour/public radio fundraising effort that ends this weekend.

"It's also new. It's like being at NPR when I joined NPR in 1974. It was less than three years old -- as old as XM is now. I get to be a pioneer again. How often does someone get that opportunity twice?"

Edwards, 57, had agreed to remain at NPR as a correspondent -- he was expected to return to work shortly -- but had hinted recently that he might be moving on. What NPR didn't know, however, was that Edwards had been won over by the largest satellite radio network in the country. After developing its own music programming in its first three years, XM is pursuing its ambition to distribute public-radio programming and its own original shows in the public radio vein.

With that in mind, XM President and CEO Hugh Panero, who has been developing the new channel (XM Channel 133, premiering Sept. 1), heavily wooed Edwards in hopes his presence would expand XM's subscriber base (By the end of his 25 years as anchor, Edwards drew 13 million early-morning listeners to NPR's "Morning Edition" every week). XM, which offers more than 100 channels, currently has 2.1 million subscribers, who pay $9.99 per month for the nationwide service. An XM receiver that can be switched from home to car to boombox costs $99.

XM Satellite Radio has yet to officially announce the Edwards deal. But Panero, reached on vacation with his family yesterday, could not hide his excitement.

"Bob Edwards is a guy I respect, a guy who has done nothing but contribute his entire life to public radio, and continues to offer great value to his listeners," Panero said. "I could not be more thrilled to be able to offer him a place to continue to do what he does extremely well."

NPR management, which has acknowledged that the Edwards move was mishandled, issued a statement after news of the deal leaked yesterday: "We understand that Bob has decided to end his distinguished tenure at NPR. We wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor and thank him for the contributions he has made to public radio."

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