Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

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Bill_N
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Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Bill_N » Fri Dec 08, 2006 10:39 am

According to a story in the Post this morning, Washingon Redskins owner Dan Snyder is negotiating to buy WGMS-FM, adding the station to his regional sports-talk network. There goes the last classical station in D.C.

On a purely theoretical level, I'm upset about this development; however, since WGMS hasn't played anything but classical top-40 in years, I stopped listening to it long ago.

Lance
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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:15 pm

Bill_N wrote:According to a story in the Post this morning, Washingon Redskins owner Dan Snyder is negotiating to buy WGMS-FM, adding the station to his regional sports-talk network. There goes the last classical station in D.C.

On a purely theoretical level, I'm upset about this development; however, since WGMS hasn't played anything but classical top-40 in years, I stopped listening to it long ago.
No wonder you you don't listen to WGMS any more! [I get their newsletter, which never contains very much of interest.] Where are all the innovators in classical programming? I recall years ago listening to WQXR from New York, about 175 miles away from Binghamton, New York. The AM signal was decent until all the pop stations started broadcasting their stuff so close to the WQXR signal. Also, Radio Canada (CBC) could be picked up well, especially late at night. I used to hear the French station from Quebec and the programming was always wonderful. I cannot find any Canadian stations from here now. Another station I listened to late at night came from Chicago and was sponsored by American Airlines. It was called "Music 'Til Dawn." (Who remembers that?) The programming was superb and interrupted only occasionally with an American Airlines blurb. Once when an AA airplane had a fatal crash, there was no advertising whatsover, only music, complete symphonies (not movements), etc.

I suppose it's really all about money. Classical listeners account for a very small percentage of the overall radio listening public. Personally, I cannot tolerate what regular radio has to offer. The adveristing is so frequent and pushy, it would appear the advertisers view their listeners as morons. The repetition of the same message is also annoying. I purposely avoid buying their advertised products.

The masses are the ones catered to and we have to fend for ourselves. It's a good reason to go XM radio, which I don't subscribe to yet. On the other hand, having a good and extensive record collection seems the way to go to handle your own pesonal listening needs. Record companies, however, are experiencing their own problems and the classical CD market continues to shrink as do the number of new releases, hence all these mergers that have happened in the industry and even then, things look bleak. No new recordings, and repackaged reissues are the thing for today from most major labels (some of which are extraordinary values). Naxos continues to be a leader for collectors of repertoire that is vastly underrecorded. I am so pleased for having been able to amass my own broad collection and have no regrets about the accumulation one iota. Don't throw away your LPs either. For many individuals, this is still the way to go especially as classical releases on CD shrink to even lower levels, and particularly if you are retired or living on a moderate income.

Maybe collectively, all us classical music lovers can have a bigger voice in what is played on the air. If the politicians can get their way, why can't we?

If I ever win the lottery (ha!) - I would like to start a classical station called "WLGH" or maybe even "WCMG" with a huge amount of transmission power, and translators, which would embrace millions of people. Only news, classical music, live concerts, interviews with performers, operating 16 hours a day, or even 24 hours. Now I might be able to pursue this with large contributions from CMG followers! [Ho, ho, ho! Remember it's Christmastime: better to give than to receive!] I don't expect this to happen and am being somewhat facetious, but hey, what's wrong with dreaming? Many dreams become realities. Do I dare await your $10,000 (USD) checks on an annual basis? [Ho, ho, ho!]
Lance G. Hill
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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Haydnseek » Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:36 pm

Lance wrote:Only news, classical music, live concerts, interviews with performers, operating 16 hours a day, or even 24 hours.
Please leave out the news. There is news screaming at us from everywhere all of the time. We need spaces where we can escape from it for awhile. The hourly breaks for news on my local classical and jazz stations were major mood breakers that helped drive me away to satellite.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by miranda » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:40 pm

Lance, I for one would love it if you'd start a radio station....I'm sure everyone here would tune in. But between Christmas shopping and having some much-needed dental work done, I'm a bit strapped financially at the moment....

I like what Alex Ross has to say about the WGMS situation:


WGMS says goodbye to good music

The Washington Post reports that WGMS, Washington, DC's classical music station, has been bought by the owner of the Washington Redskins and is almost certain to switch to a sports-talk format. For some years, WGMS, the "good music station," hasn't been very good at what it does, focussing on a limited repertory and indulging in a lot of inane chatter. But it was the last thing left, WETA having converted to talk last year. I grew up listening to WGMS, back when the programming was rather more hefty (a great hour-long show by the late Paul Hume, among other things). It's horrible to see this happen, although with so much programming available on Internet and satellite radio it's far from being the end of the world.

Anyone who spins this story as an example of classical music's allegedly declining audience — the "death of classical music" routine — will be engaging in pure fiction. WGMS, whatever its failings, has had good ratings for a long time and is a profitable outfit, generating $9 million in advertising. Before it was downgraded to an inferior signal a year ago, its ratings were on the rise, according to Paul Farhi in the Post. It is unlikely that the station will remain so profitable in its new incarnation; it may attract more advertising, but it will also be much more expensive to run. Mark Fratrik, a broadcasting commentator, makes it clear why so many classical stations are being eliminated these days. To quote the Post: "One part of the problem, [Fratrik] said, is that classical works are long, which makes it more difficult for stations to fit lots of commercials onto the air. Moreover, he said, classical fans tend to be older, and advertisers pay a premium for younger listeners." So, it doesn't matter that a classical station has a healthy listenership and is profitable. The problem is that it doesn't allow advertisers to saturate the airwaves with their ads, so a listener tuning in for just a few minutes during a short car ride can be injected with propaganda. More important, it doesn't have the right kind of listener — the young male that advertisers pathetically lust after, like Aschenbach panting on the beach in Death in Venice.

When WETA converted from classical to talk, its ratings dropped. Dan DeVany, the station's general manager, claimed then that he wouldn't have made the change if DC hadn't already had a classical station in WGMS. Now, asked whether he would reconsider, DeVany says: "I wouldn't want to speculate at this time. We're really happy with our [news-talk] format. We've been doing some good things." No doubt they've done some excellent stories on insincerity in public life. The CEO of WETA is Sharon Rockefeller, who is related by marriage to Nelson Rockefeller, who was instrumental in the founding of Lincoln Center. To put it bluntly, she is not doing a very good job of tending to Rockefeller's legacy.

December 08, 2006


http://www.therestisnoise.com/2006/12/w ... goodb.html
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:45 pm

Several members here live in, or like myself for many (25) years lived in, the Baltimore-Washington area, and for those who do not know, WGMS was a commercial classical station which I stopped listeining to early on for that reason. I only remember that they had a host named Bob Davis (not to be confused with Robert Aubrey Davis) and one named Renee something or other (was it Cheney?) who was the latest wife of Col. Arnold Gabriel, the director of the Air Force Band and my father's former CO.

So you're telling me that even WETA (a public radio station) is no longer a classical station? Now that is a shock.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by GK » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:52 pm

This group apparently does not regard "Hail to the Redskins" as classical music.

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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by burnitdown » Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:16 pm

Lance wrote:Classical listeners account for a very small percentage of the overall radio listening public.
Do we? It seems to me that "entertainment industry" is happy when it sells a million of one CD or another, which means one in 300 Americans bought it. That's not as amazing as 50 million sold, which if we add it up, is probably how many people have bought different versions of Beethoven's fifth. The main problem we have I think is that we are not viewed as an important demographic by the Hollywood types, when to me it seems that many of the best and most successful people I meet are classical listeners.

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Post by IcedNote » Fri Dec 08, 2006 11:00 pm

GK wrote:This group apparently does not regard "Hail to the Redskins" as classical music.
I'm a HUGE 'Skins fan! :D (my father grew up in DC...)

Anyways, that's a shame. Welcome to life like it is here in Miami...no classical radio at all. :(

-G
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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:20 am

Bill_N wrote:According to a story in the Post this morning, Washingon Redskins owner Dan Snyder is negotiating to buy WGMS-FM, adding the station to his regional sports-talk network. There goes the last classical station in D.C.

On a purely theoretical level, I'm upset about this development; however, since WGMS hasn't played anything but classical top-40 in years, I stopped listening to it long ago.
That's a shame. I started listening to it again in 1996 after a long hiatus and was plesantly surprised at the quality and diversity of the music. I took a lot of pride in its status as one of the few classical commercial stations and its success when all around them, especially the classical formats on the so-called public radio stations, were being destroyed by Mr. Giovannoni's little arbitron calculations. Sue Hammond was eventually persuaded in 2000 to come interview with WGMS' irrepressible Dennis Owens in part because Classical Kids' second largest market was DC, where WGMS featured her CDs every Saturday for years.

Oh well. Back to XM Radio . . .

Here's the sad story:

Redskins Owner Set to Buy Last Classical Station

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 8, 2006; C01

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has reached a preliminary agreement to buy classical music station WGMS-FM in a deal that would expand his budding sports-talk radio empire and likely be the swan song for the area's only classical outlet.

Snyder and the owner of WGMS, Bonneville International Corp., have established a price for the sale but had not formalized the deal as of yesterday, people close to the negotiations said. They said, however, that an agreement could be wrapped up within days.

"They made an offer that [a seller] can't refuse," said one executive involved in the negotiations. He requested anonymity because the sale was pending. "If someone wanted to buy your house and was willing to pay 50 percent more than it was worth, you'd do it," he said.

Neither side would disclose the proposed sale price or discuss potential programming changes.

In a memo to Bonneville's Washington area employees yesterday, the company's top local executive, Joel Oxley, wrote: "Our company is in discussions with Red Zebra but there is not a deal in place. I will keep you apprised in the weeks to come of timing and additional developments as they occur."

Red Zebra Broadcasting, a company Snyder formed early this year, has been buying up stations in the mid-Atlantic region as outlets for sports programming and live broadcasts of Redskins games. But his three flagship stations in the Washington area -- known as Triple X ESPN Radio -- have weak signals. In some parts of the area, the three stations (at 92.7 and 94.3 FM, and 730 AM) are plagued by static and other interference .

Bennett Zier, who heads Red Zebra, would not comment on his company's negotiations with Bonneville. But he said, "Red Zebra is in the buying business. We're looking at several acquisitions now. . . . We have nothing to formally announce yet."

WGMS, which broadcasts at 103.9 and 104.1 FM, would only partially resolve Red Zebra's local reception problems. The stations would strengthen Red Zebra's coverage across the metropolitan area, but both outlets have poor coverage in such spots as Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Upper Northwest Washington, Arlington and McLean. Even so, said one executive, the two frequencies "are dramatically better than what they have now."

WGMS's signal deficiencies drew complaints from many music fans when Bonneville moved classical programming from 103.5 FM to 103.9 and 104.1 FM this year. The move, which followed Bonneville's creation of a new station in conjunction with The Washington Post, set off the channel realignment of Bonneville's other stations, including all-news WTOP AM-FM.

Classical music has been a dying radio format, nationally and in the Washington area, for more than a decade. WETA (90.9 FM) phased it out in early 2005, and now often duplicates NPR programming also heard on WAMU (88.5 FM).

Asked whether WETA would consider restoring its classical programs, general manager Dan DeVany said: "I wouldn't want to speculate at this time. We're really happy with our [news-talk] format. We've been doing some good things."

Of more than 12,000 stations nationwide, only about 165 have a full- or part-time classical format, according to Radio-Locator.com, an Internet database.

"Classical stations have a very challenging time making it financially," said Mark Fratrik, a vice president at BIA Financial Network, a Chantilly company that tracks the broadcasting industry. One part of the problem, he said, is that classical works are long, which makes it more difficult for stations to fit lots of commercials onto the air. Moreover, he said, classical fans tend to be older, and advertisers pay a premium for younger listeners.

People on both sides of the negotiations said yesterday it is unlikely that WGMS would continue as a classical station.

Bonneville executives said WGMS has been profitable. In 2005, it generated $9.7 million in advertising revenue, according to BIA. The station attracted an average of 3.8 percent of all Washington area listeners during the summer quarter.

Sales of radio stations must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, a process that typically takes months to complete. But pending that approval, Red Zebra could take over WGMS within a matter of weeks, under a so-called local marketing agreement that enables one station owner to program, but not own, another station.

Under such a scenario, Red Zebra could use WGMS's frequencies to air the Redskins' four remaining regular-season games.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:40 am

jbuck919 wrote:Several members here live in, or like myself for many (25) years lived in, the Baltimore-Washington area, and for those who do not know, WGMS was a commercial classical station which I stopped listeining to early on for that reason. I only remember that they had a host named Bob Davis (not to be confused with Robert Aubrey Davis) and one named Renee something or other (was it Cheney?) who was the latest wife of Col. Arnold Gabriel, the director of the Air Force Band and my father's former CO.
Yup. I remember Bob Davis well. And Bill Cerri, who was apparently in constant trouble with the somewhat parochial management of the station, and damn proud of it too. His brother, Dick, was a locally famous dj and authority on folk music on another DC station. Bill was one of the first dj's recruited by WETA-FM for its inaugural broadcast in April 1970. And morning host, Fred Eden, who left the station in the 70s to resume his career as a lawyer with his father's law firm. And Mike Causey, who left in the mid 70s to move to WAMU. Yes, it was Renee Cheney. She started life as an announcer at WETA-FM the week they debuted but soon left for WGMS. I remember too all the fuss over her wedding to Col. Gabriel. She's half Czech and spoke often of her colorful family. She'd always wanted to be a radio announcer, but her father insisted that she have a saleable skill that would pay real cash money, so she studied radio engineering in college, and still got to do what she always wanted to do. And Dennis Owens, who hailed from Saskatchewan but sounded like an Aussie from years of radio work down there before he joined the WGMS crew in 68 or 69. He was the graveyard shift announcer when WGMS went to 24-hr broadcasting in 1969. As he got seniority, he moved around the clock, landing up at the morning drive time, and gave us "Medieval Maniacs and Renaissance Rascals" referring to his EM fans. Sniff. I think I'll have another shot of vodka.
So you're telling me that even WETA (a public radio station) is no longer a classical station? Now that is a shock.
We discussed it at depressing length last year when WETA too fell to the magic of Giovannoni's charts. It's probably still in the archives.
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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 09, 2006 2:00 am

burnitdown wrote:
Lance wrote:Classical listeners account for a very small percentage of the overall radio listening public.
Do we?
Yep. Bad demographic. Always older (not the treasured 18-35 group), better educated, richer, smaller slice of market. Giovannoni would throw up his graphics and show station managers their peak listening hours: drive time. What did station managers have in drive time? Morning Edition, not once but twice, and All Things Considered, not once but twice. What did these listeners want? News and information they can use. When station managers programmed more talky-talky, their ratings went up, as did their advertising, er, sponsorship revenues and their donations during begathons. The facts were unavoidable: nobody important listened to classical music. Station managers would stammer, "but what about their influence and their outrage?" And Giovannoni would tell them, "your ratings will increase. They may be vocal but you can ignore them because your ratings and revenue are all that matter, and they will go up."

So, might John ask, what happened to the concept that public radio was supposed to offer its audience the things they couldn't find on broadcast radio? Giovannoni would answer, public radio is a business, just like any other business. Why wouldn't it want maximum listenership and why wouldn't it get that listenership by offering it the programming that it wanted to hear? A very worthy capitalist impulse but completely out of synch with public radio's founding principles back in the 1960s.

That's one reason among many that I want to see an end to the 15% of NPR's budget that comes from the taxpayer. If public radio is going to have the same bad values that made commercial radio unappealing and turn itself into a commercial success, it don't need my tax dollar. Alas it will never happen because the Republicans, when they had power, lacked the stones to face down the resulting wails from the various Democratic interest groups and the media.
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miranda
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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by miranda » Sat Dec 09, 2006 9:58 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
burnitdown wrote:
Lance wrote:Classical listeners account for a very small percentage of the overall radio listening public.
Do we?
Yep. Bad demographic. Always older (not the treasured 18-35 group), better educated, richer, smaller slice of market.


Older? Not quite always. :wink: I'm 35, soon to turn 36 in February. Better educated? Well, I know I have considerably less formal education than most, if not all the members here...when it come to classical music I am, as with many subjects, an autodidact. Richer? Hmmm....I'm certainly not in dire straits financially, but I'm no millionaire, either....there will always be exceptions in demographics, and I'm one of them, I suppose.
Corlyss_D wrote:That's one reason among many that I want to see an end to the 15% of NPR's budget that comes from the taxpayer. If public radio is going to have the same bad values that made commercial radio unappealing and turn itself into a commercial success, it don't need my tax dollar. Alas it will never happen because the Republicans, when they had power, lacked the stones to face down the resulting wails from the various Democratic interest groups and the media.
I agree with you about this, Corlyss, even though you would disapprove of the way I voted in this most recent election.
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

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Re: Classical radio on its way out in D.C.

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:02 pm

miranda wrote: there will always be exceptions in demographics, and I'm one of them, I suppose.
Right you are. I salute you for falling outside the bulge, but it don't change the impact. I too fell outside the norm in that I loved classical music as a child - my earliest memory of it is about 3 - and I've always loved it. Sure I flirt with other genres, but classical is my default setting.
you would disapprove of the way I voted in this most recent election.
I never disapprove of legal votes, Miranda. I pray for the public living up to the responsibilities to be informed on the issues imposed by our democratic system, but between the informed but not voting and ignorant but voting, I'll pick voting every time. Maybe then the ignorant can manage thru trial and error to become informed while resisting the urge to become an advocacy group. :wink:
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 09, 2006 4:23 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: We discussed it at depressing length last year when WETA too fell to the magic of Giovannoni's charts. It's probably still in the archives.
So you won't think I'm losing my faculties, I remember discussing the fate of classical music on NPR extensively in previous threads. Somehow or other--wishful thinking I suppose--I did not remember the specific fate of WETA.

There is still good classical radio here out in the sticks. But as I recently posted, the previously excellent classical programming on Direct TV has been replaced with a single hit or miss channel. I have to get a CD player that operates on US current and a good set of earphones. My mother enjoys classical as background music, but that's how she thinks of it (she also likes Lawrence Welk), and she couldn't take the diet of a serious listener. Unfortunately, the place doesn't have any soundproof rooms.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Dec 09, 2006 6:47 pm

John, I thought your Mom had a local satellite TV service that did not use one of the satellite radio hookups to furnish music. I remember searching on it last year just to satisfy my own curiosity. Direct TV uses XM Radio to furnish its music and there are 3 classical music stations on Direct TV via XM Radio - XM Classics (1000 years of non-vocal music), XM Vox (opera, lieder, choral), and, for the season, the pops station, XM Classical Christmas.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 09, 2006 8:21 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:John, I thought your Mom had a local satellite TV service that did not use one of the satellite radio hookups to furnish music. I remember searching on it last year just to satisfy my own curiosity. Direct TV uses XM Radio to furnish its music and there are 3 classical music stations on Direct TV via XM Radio - XM Classics (1000 years of non-vocal music), XM Vox (opera, lieder, choral), and, for the season, the pops station, XM Classical Christmas.
Yes, thank you. I only went looking for it two nights ago and had a devil of a time finding it because the channel designations are all different from the latest listing in the guide. They seem to change their minds every six months. It is still inferior to what they had before. I'm listening to Classics right now (Weber's First Symphony). Like I said, Mom likes the stuff too, mostly. And today Lawrence Welk was pre-empted by the fund raiser on that PBS feed. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by GK » Sat Dec 16, 2006 7:49 am

According to this morning's Washington Post, WETA the PBS station which dropped classical music for all news programming AND LOST LISTENERS, may go back to CM if WGMS drops it.

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Post by GK » Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:22 pm

Washington Post sports columnist George Solomon believes that the sale of WGMS to Dan Snyder may not turn out so bad because we'll have "Sonny (Jurgensen) and Sam (Huff) to guide us through Mahler's Symphony No. 7." The above gentlemen are former Redskin players who are now the teams radio play-by-play analysts.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:28 pm

GK wrote:Washington Post sports columnist George Solomon believes that the sale of WGMS to Dan Snyder may not turn out so bad because we'll have "Sonny (Jurgensen) and Sam (Huff) to guide us through Mahler's Symphony No. 7." The above gentlemen are former Redskin players who are now the teams radio play-by-play analysts.
One of them can commentate the Nachmusik I and the other can do the Nachtmusik II, and surely, as if it wouldn't happen anyway, we will all be shortly asleep. Yes, a whole new concept in classical radio.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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