WGBH ignores local classical music lovers

A Boston Business Journal headline last week piqued my interest:  “WGBH sending out strong signals.”  This was very exciting.  Was the station finally heeding the complaints of classical music lovers deprived of classical music when WCRB FM, which WGBH owns, moved from 102.5 to 99.5 on the dial? WCRB, of course, stands for Classical Radio Boston, and it was the mainstay forever of those who depended on its programming for sustenance.

Wide swaths of population in Newton, parts of Boston and Cambridge and other areas south can no longer get classical music on radio in their homes. What they get is static. Period.

Alas, I was to be disappointed with the BBJ article. The “strong signals” being sent by WGBH were all about its growth in revenue.  They got it through two new programs, radio operations and increases in membership levels and donations.  Well, they didn’t get it by serving their classical music audience.  Of course, I’m as much into Downton Abbey as the next person, and I rarely miss Emily Rooney’s Greater Boston. But I can’t figure out why, in all its acquisitions, including Public Radio International, WGBH can’t acquire a stronger signal to distribute its classical format. It did so once before, in acquiring a university station and extending its reach into Rhode Island.

I inquired of WGBH President Jon Abbott, who didn’t return my message. I did hear back from Marita Rivero, Vice President and General Manager for Radio and Television.  She said I was “not alone in hoping for a clearer signal.  Unfortunately there is little that we can do to offer help.”  This is hardly the message I hoped to hear.

When WCRB was sold to Greater Media in 2006, classical was moved from 102.5 to 99.5 to make way for Country music. 99.5, I am told, has the same power but points in a different direction.  Greater Media sold immediately to Nassau Broadcasting, from which ‘GBH purchased it.  They inherited the problem, which, from an audience perspective, has been disastrous.  And WGBH is the only entity that can do something about it now.  This is Boston, the self-referential Athens of America, the Hub of the Universe, and we can’t get classical music on public radio?

I welcome your comments in the section below.

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6 Responses to WGBH ignores local classical music lovers

  1. Dan Kennedy says:

    Easy enough to listen to WCRB online. And if you have an iPhone, you can get an app so you can take it with you. Not even that hard to set up for your car. If you want to explore, let me know.

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  2. aronsbarron says:

    Thanks, Dan, but it’s not the same as having the sound go through your speakers, filling the house. Appreicate your offer, however.

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  3. Ellen Hoffman says:

    If anything, the static has gotten worse since WGBH bought the station, and I live in Belmont. I can’t listenm anymore in my kitchen. And it often is bad in my car in many towns. It was always the only station on my car radio, but now i find myself dailing others. I have better options for classical music in Maine and New Mexico than in Boston. Pretty pathetic.

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  4. Greg Reibman says:

    I agree with Dan.

    Being hostage to radio signals is really so 2010. We have two excellent-sounding tabletop internet radios (one in the kitchen, the other is our bedroom clock radio) and enjoy listening to stations all over the world. The sound is quite good and so is the functionality. I suppose we could hook them up to our speakers, but I’ve never felt the need.

    And yes, we regularly plug our smart phones into the car sound system and do the same thing. (We’re even sustaining members of Minnesota Public Radio because we spend so many hours listening to “The Current”)

    Bottom line: Just as you no longer depend on the TV antenna, radio is heading the same way.

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    • aronsbarron says:

      Thanks, Greg. This is very helpful. Which brand and models of internet radios did you buy? I appreciate your comments and Dan’s, who is my technology guru extraordinaire. I am slowly emerging from techno-peasant and learning from those around me. For me, being 2010 is a step forward.

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  5. Greg Reibman says:

    We have a Liveo and a Grace. Each cost about $150 a couple years ago and totally worth it. I suspect they might cost less today. Although you can use your laptop or smart phone to do the same thing, we like ease of having dedicated radios. Also eliminates the need (and subsequent distraction) that come with having your smart phone at your bedside.

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