With the thoughtful discussion taking place under this thread that I
originated, it seemed appropriate to let Listers know that yesterday the
WETA Board approved the changeover of its FM radio station to a news/talk
format, dropping virtually all classical and other music programs by the
end of this month. The only major music programs to survive will be on
Saturdays, including the Met Opera broadcasts and an evening folk/world
music program. But the daily 15 hours or so of classical music that has
been the norm on WETA FM will be deleted.
The Board meeting was much more heavily attended than usual by the public,
which included not only people concerned about classical music, but also
others who wanted to address another recent public broadcasting controversy
about a cartoon character who supposedly "endorses" a gay lifestyle (WETA
has declined to broadcast the program, though it denies any pressure
being brought to bear upon it by Bush Administration officials or right
wing activists). Reportedly many of those who addressed the Board
expressed their anger and dismay at these decisions.
A program director from the National Symphony Orchestra presented a
petition signed by hundreds of people protesting the planned move to
drop classical music programs, with John Adams and James Galway among
the reported signers. The station management was said to promise the
eventual creation of more locally produced programming, including arts
related ones, that would also try to serve a more diverse audience.
Until then, they would be primarily broadcasting existing NPR and BBC
It was pointed out to the WETA Board that this move comes at an ironic
time, when suburban Montgomery County Maryland just opened its new
Strathmore Hall Music Center, where the Baltimore Symphony will be playing
concerts in the DC area. The BSO supplements the National Symphony at
the Kennedy Center, and other guest artists/ensembles who play at the
George Mason University Center for the Arts in nearby Fairfax County
In addition, there are numerous chamber, choral and early music ensembles
active in the DC area, including the Folger Consort, Hesperus, the
Washington Bach Consort, and the Smithsonian ensembles, which have had
their performances issued on CDs and in radio broadcasts.
According to the Washington Post, the station said in 2004 its audience
sank to its lowest point since 1991, being ranked 18th in the metropolitan
area. But NSO oboe player William Wielgus argued that this decision
should not be about numbers, but principle. "Rather than give up on
music, he argued, the station should make the effort to preserve it and
educate new listeners."
If anyone wishes to read today's Washington Post story on the matter,
it is available online (for registered readers):
Bill H., who wonders if the deck wasn't already stacked beforehand....