[JPL] WBEZ-CHICAGO PLANS TO PHASE OUT MUSIC
dcrane at comcast.net
Sat Apr 8 02:02:33 EDT 2006
I know most of you public radio folks are
familiar with the Station Resource Group and the
studies they publish. They updated their Public
Radio Format Study this past December. Page 5
may tell the tale as to why so many stations are
abandoning music in favor of talk. Since 1999,
overall average quarter hour numbers (AQH) are up
by a whopping 54.8% for stations that program
news, only a 5.6% increase was registered by jazz
stations. Time spent listening numbers (TSL)
were up 2.2% for news stations, jazz stations
were down 6.5%. I'd hazard a guess that news
ratings are up in large part due to events in the
post-9/11 world. But statistics never lie,
right??? The entire study can be found at the
link below. David Giovannoni's name doesn't seem
to appear anywhere on it so there might be
something in here of some real value.
As one of the two news items I'm copying and
pasting below shows, dropping music in favor of
news/talk does not necessarily translate into
more pledge dollars. Or more listeners. At
least in the short term. The Washington Post
story also talks about how the music-less WETA
duplicates some of the programming heard on
WAMU. It's worth noting that the Washington Post
unveiled their own news-talk radio station this
week providing additional choices for D.C-based
hard-core news/talk junkies. Perhaps this
explains why I didn't hear Post columnist E.J.
Dionne on Friday's All Things Considered. Maybe
the Post won't allow him to appear on NPR any longer.
The second news item appeared in Friday's
Northwest Indiana Times detailing some of the
impending changes at Chicago Public Radio, their
official spin on it and comments from a
none-too-happy but willing-to-wait-and-see-what-happens listener.
dcrane at comcast.net
KUVO Denver 89.3 FM
Wednesdays 7-9 PM
From the Washington Post:
Beethoven's Revenge: Ratings Drop at Classical Music-less WETA
By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 11, 2005; N01
When WETA changed formats in February, dropping
classical music to become another
all-news-and-talk public radio station, music
fans, musicians and cultural organizations
pummeled station executives with protests. How
could the nation's capital have no public
classical station? How would young people be exposed to the music?
"People were angry -- still are -- and I
understand that," says Dan DeVany, general
manager of the station (90.9 FM) and architect of
the switch. "But there was an audience in the
Washington area that was not being served by
public radio, and we wanted to reach out to
them." He's talking about breaking out of the
traditional public radio audience of affluent,
highly educated, older and white listeners.
But after two ratings books, two fund drives and
nine months of the new programming -- a mix of
news and talk shows from National Public Radio,
the BBC and other outside sources, much of it
oriented to foreign affairs -- WETA's audience is
smaller, no more generous than the classical
audience was, and no more reflective of the
demographics of the Washington area.
By most measures of success, WETA still lags
behind its public radio competitor, WAMU (88.5
FM), which airs much of the same programming,
including NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things
Considered," which the two stations simulcast in
morning and evening drive time, respectively.
WETA concluded its fall fund drive with $445,000.
That's a decline from $479,000 raised in the
drive a year ago, when the station still devoted
much of its time to the classics.
But DeVany notes that the number of donors was up
slightly, from 5,535 to 5,729. And the percentage
of new members, an indication of the station's
ability to attract a new audience, rose from about 56 percent to 62 percent.
"We are doing almost exactly as we expected," he says.
Still, a look at the Arbitron ratings -- provided
by WETA competitors who are only too happy to
document the struggles of their new rival --
shows a considerable drop in listening since the
format change. Year to year, WETA has lost nearly
a third of its share of the total D.C. area
audience, and the biggest drops have come during
the midday hours, when the station formerly
broadcast classical music. During that same time,
WETA's news/talk rivals, WAMU and all-news WTOP
(1500 AM, 107.7 FM) gained audience, while talker
WMAL (630 AM) continued a slow decline.
WTOP Vice President Jim Farley sees this as
evidence that WETA's news format has not found a
new audience, but DeVany says the numbers show
that younger listeners are discovering the
station's commitment to serious discussion of
world and national events. "We're seeing a
greater distribution of age groups," DeVany says,
citing ratings showing that the portion of WETA's
audience in the 65-74 age bracket has dropped
from 16 percent to 11 percent in the past year,
while those in the 25-34 age range bumped up from 10 percent to 13 percent.
Despite WETA's addition of two NPR programs aimed
at black listeners -- "The Tavis Smiley Show,"
which is heard in this market only on WETA, and
Ed Gordon's "News & Notes" -- the share of the
station's audience that is black has slipped
slightly, from 5 percent last summer to 4 percent
this summer. "It's going to take a while before
we have the ethnic mix we'd like to see," DeVany says.
WETA executives argue that they had little choice
but to switch formats. The classical audience was
aging, and survey numbers indicated that many
listeners who tuned in to NPR's "Morning Edition"
then changed the station to another news or talk
outlet during the middle of the day, rather than sticking with WETA for music.
"They were telling us something I couldn't deny,"
says DeVany, for many years one of WETA's most
knowledgeable classical music hosts. "I could dig
deep into my classical music soul and say, 'Who
cares what the numbers show?' but that would be
denying the truth. The multicultural-global view
had great potential for public service, and I
made a very difficult decision that certainly alienated a lot of people."
WETA's new midday and evening talk lineup is
heavy on BBC programs that emphasize foreign
stories generally ignored by the U.S. broadcast
media. The station hopes those programs will
attract Washington's large immigrant population.
WETA is also trying to distinguish itself from
its public radio competition by devoting two
hours on Sunday evenings to documentaries.
But the format change meant eliminating almost
all of WETA's locally produced programming. One
of the few holdovers from the old format, Mary
Cliff's popular "Traditions" show of folk and
acoustic music, retains its Saturday night slot.
And next spring, the station intends to replace
some BBC programs with its first local talk show, a one-hour weekday magazine.
DeVany, who has been at the station since 1986,
says WETA is still evolving. But even in the
coming era of digital radio, when stations will
add extra streams of programming that listeners
will receive on a new generation of broadcast
radios, WETA will not go back to classical music.
The station is seeking a new home, probably a
college, for its library of more than 27,000 classical CDs.
DeVany says he wouldn't have dropped music if the
area didn't also have a commercial classical
station, WGMS (103.5 FM), and indeed that
station's ratings have benefited from WETA's
switch. But in WGMS's pops approach, the music is
intended largely as background, an accompaniment
to work or commuting, not as the active, serious
listening that public radio was created to provide.
"Are we abandoning a generation from being
exposed to classical music?" DeVany asks.
"There's a danger of that across all media. It's still up to the parents."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
From the Northwest Indiana Times regarding changes at WBEZ:
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Friday, April 7, 2006 12:48 AM CDT
Chicago Public Radio announces it will drop all music programming
BY MIKAELA BUFANO
Medill News Service
Chicago Public Radio, which broadcasts in the
greater Chicago area and northern Indiana,
announced Thursday it will drop all music
programming and will cover only public affairs in
the form of news and talk shows.
The shift to full-time public affairs and
cultural programming, in the planning stage for
more than a year, goes into effect in early 2007,
according to a statement from Tony Malatia,
Chicago Public Radio president and general manager.
"Radio programming in this region has changed in
recent years," Malatia said. "We've seen a lack
of in-depth news reporting and focus on this
community. Chicago Public Radio will fill this
need with more diverse coverage of this region."
Jazz, blues and world music programs such as
"Comin' Home," and "Encanto Latino" will no
longer be produced. Members of the music staff
will help develop new programming to accompany
current public affairs offerings.
Popular programs Chicago Public Radio broadcasts
include National Public Radio's "Morning Edition"
and "All Things Considered," and American Public
Media's "Marketplace" and "A Prairie Home Companion."
According the Chicago Public Radio Web site, its
broadcast reaches about 600,000 listers each week
throughout Chicago and in such surrounding
regions as Chesterton at WBEW 89.7 FM.
Malatia emphasized that the change is a
mission-based decision, rather than market-based.
He hopes the new format will reach people who are
very much engaged in their communities and
current affairs and provide a platform for
contact and a launching place for discussion and debate.
"It's because there is no question what our best
and highest purpose is--with the consolidation of
consumer media, and the disinvestment that is
taking place in journalistic organizations all
around the country and in our region and the
desire and increased need for people to have a
place they consider trustworthy."
Fifty-eight-year-old Claudia Heilke, of Porter,
said before she retired she listened to WBEZ for
about three hours a day while commuting to
Chicago. Heilke, who still listens to WBEZ
everyday, said she opposes the change.
"I find it upsetting in a way ... there's nowhere
else to go to get any jazz and there's certainly
nowhere else to get world music which I will really, really miss."
However, Heilke said she is optimistic about the
prospective programming expected to fill the void
left by the eliminated music programs.
Throughout May and June Chicago Public Radio will
"actively seek input from audiences through
public meetings, web forums and call-in programs," Malatia said.
"We will be able to offer excellent programming
we currently do not have room in our schedule to offer," he said.
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