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WDAV To Distribue 'World Of Opera' After NPR Drops It

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A showdown between Davidson-based WDAV-FM and National Public Radio over the off-air activities of a program host came to a head Friday when NPR announced it would no longer distribute "World of Opera," which is produced at WDAV. NPR's decision came after WDAV refused to fire the program's host, Lisa Simeone, over her involvement in a Washington, D.C., protest related to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. WDAV said it would take over distribution next month. NPR sent an email to member stations Friday saying it would no longer distribute the program. The statement, reported on a blog on the NPR website, said the decision resulted "from different views about the role of a program host." NPR has argued that Ms. Simeone violated NPR's ethics policy, which prohibits political activity by employees. Ms. Simeone and WDAV have noted that she is not an employee, but a free-lancer. And "World of Opera" is not a news program. But NPR said program hosts "represent NPR regardless of the type of program they host," and are barred from political activity. In turn, WDAV said it would begin distributing the program in two weeks. Here's WDAV's statement: Effective November 11, 2011, WDAV will begin distributing the popular program World of Opera, which had previously been distributed by NPR. Listeners' experience of the show will be unchanged: World of Opera will continue to feature the same high-quality operas from European and American opera houses, and Lisa Simeone will continue as host. World of Opera, carried by some 60 public radio stations across the nation, is the only radio show in America devoted to broadcasting full-length operas captured in performance from around the world. Productions from La Scala, Bayreuth, Vienna, Paris and Geneva regularly grace World of Opera's airwaves, as well as performances from great American opera companies, including Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass, Santa Fe and New York City Opera. WDAV, based at Davidson College, has been producing "World of Opera" since January 2010. The show had been distributed by NPR. NPR officials had been pressing WDAV to act after bloggers, Fox News and others reported that Ms. Simeone was involved with the Washington protests. NPR said Thursday: "We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." In Davidson, both station manager Scott Nolan and college President Carol Quillen have been in their jobs only since August. But on Thursday, the station defied NPR, issuing a statement that said, "As host of "World of Opera," Lisa Simeone is an independent contractor of WDAV Classical Public Radio. Ms. Simeone's activities outside of this job are not in violation of any of WDAV's employee codes and have had no effect on her job performance at WDAV. Ms. Simeone remains the host of "World of Opera.'" NPR announced Friday it was dropping distribution of the show. "World of Opera" airs Saturdays, 6 to 10 p.m. on WDAV, 89.9.