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?
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