Ira Glass recently wrote a lengthy piece about innovation in public radio vis a vis Car Talk; here's the gist of it:
[W]ith all respect to [producer] Doug Berman and my colleagues at Car Talk Plaza — I think when they stop making new episodes in October, they should be pulled from Saturday mornings. A show that’s 100 percent reruns doesn’t fit with our mission as public broadcasters. I don’t think it’s justifiable.
Especially not in a timeslot that’s essentially primetime on weekends. Run Car Talk late nights maybe. Or Sunday night. But not on Saturday mornings. If we’re going to have a program that continues on our air forever like I Love Lucy reruns, it should be in the timeslots Lucy migrated to.
For all of public radio’s successes, the part of our mission we’ve always neglected the most is innovation. Our biggest shows — All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, Fresh Air, A Prairie Home Companion — are decades old. The average age of our listeners keeps creeping upward. At 53, I am one of the younger public radio stars. My show has been on the air 17 years.
We need to make space for new shows, new talent, new ideas. That’s our mission, and ultimately, it’ll be good business, too, to have exciting new shows bring in new audiences.
I get the Car Talk thing. I do. I think just about anyone who (a) was a kid, and (b) has a dad probably gets the Car Talk thing. But nostalgia's got limited appeal, and with all due respect to the Tappet brothers, I'm just not going to listen to old dudes cackle about cars now that I'm in charge of my own radio destiny. My fuse for OPB shows I don't care about has grown very short; anytime I turn it on and hear Car Talk (we don't even need to talk about PHC), I plug in one of the many podcasts I like better instead—increasingly forgetting to return to my radio dial, I might add, which speaks to Glass' larger point about public radio's need to innovate if they want to attract and keep younger listeners. Or they could just... keep churning out those Car Talk reruns, hawking those tote bags, and hoping that when their audience base inevitably dies out, they've at least remembered to "make OPB their legacy."