Doug Crane 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.

Doug Crane
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

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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