Ira Glass

Ira Glass, long-time host of 'This American Life' on NPR. (Tribune file photo / January 31, 2007)

Chicago Public Media’s signature program, “This American Life,” is parting ways with its national distributor after 17 years, but the show will go on, according to its producers.

The weekly show has been marketed since 1997 by Public Radio International, a Minnesota-based non-profit which distributes the program to 587 stations across the U.S. That relationship will end as of July 1.

“We’ll continue to make our radio show and podcast,” Ira Glass, host and executive producer, posted on the show’s website Friday. “The same public radio stations will continue to broadcast it. They just won’t be getting it through PRI.”

Launched in Chicago in 1995, “This American Life” is produced by WBEZ-FM 91.5 and Chicago Public Media, but moved operations to New York in 2006.  Its national footprint was developed in partnership with PRI, which sells and distributes the program to radio stations, and pays the producer for the content.

Julia Yager, who heads up sales and marketing for PRI, said the divergence stems not from distribution of the radio broadcast, but use of the digital assets associated with the program, which reside on the “This American Life” website.

“Increasingly we see opportunities to do more, to have digital assets that are created out of the audio content that we can put up online that people can interact with or respond to,” Yager said Friday. “That was not something that existed in our last agreement.”

Glass echoed that sentiment in his blog post Friday:

“Looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we're growing – especially on the digital side of things, which we’ve always done without PRI – both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways.”

NPR, American Public Media and Public Radio Exchange are also major distributors of public radio programming, and may be options going forward. Since “This American Life” has already developed a robust network, another option would be self-distribution, according to Yager.

Beyond the blog post, Glass declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Chicago Public Media.