Beethoven Radio is now the ONLY 24 classical radio staiton in the state of Connecticut!
From Bach To Talk
By MATTHEW ERIKSON
Hartford Courant Staff Writer
June 1 2006
Connecticut Public Radio WNPR-FM (90.5) is dropping most of its classical music programs in favor of news and information programming, effective today.
Gone from the station's schedule are morning music, the noontime "Lunch with Mozart" hour, the monthly program "What's New," which has spotlighted recent CD releases, and evening and overnight programming. They will be replaced by a combination of local news, the BBC World Service and popular National Public Radio shows such as "Talk of the Nation," "Fresh Air" and "This American Life."
Unaffected are live Saturday afternoon broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, recorded performances of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Connecticut Opera on "Sunday Spotlight," and the organ program "Pipe Dreams."
According to Jerry Franklin, the president and chief executive officer of Connecticut Public Broadcasting Inc., the parent organization of WNPR, and Kim Grehn, vice president and program director, the changes were precipitated by a steady decline in classical music listeners and support during membership campaigns. Since 2003, WNPR has lost 37 percent of that audience, Grehn said. The fastest growing demographic for classical music listening at the station is in the 65-plus age group. Grehn became convinced a year ago that change was in order.
Even so, Franklin said, "I worry about major donors withdrawing major support. ... That's a big concern. But we believe that this is a better way for us to serve our community."
"If you want classical music 24/7, there are services you can subscribe to," said Grehn, who stressed that there are about a half-dozen radio stations in the area that broadcast classical music - not counting satellite radio. He believes that Connecticut Public Radio's mission is to inform and engage the local community with the kind of comprehensive news and call-in programs that are not found elsewhere on the radio.
To that end, "Where We Live," a daily, hourlong, news-talk program focused on local newsmakers and issues will begin airing Monday on WNPR. Grehn and Franklin also hope to increase the station's coverage of the local arts scene and other cultural topics.
"With a larger audience, we can provide a valuable service for some of our local cultural institutions," Franklin said.
Still, there's no certainty that a mostly news and talk format will appeal to a larger audience. Grehn points out that in the days after 9/11, when the station interrupted its regular programming for news, its audience increased 40 percent. But when WETA-FM in Washington, D.C., made the switch last year from classical music to news and talk shows from NPR, the BBC and other outside sources, it lost nearly one-third of its share of the total D.C.-area audience. Last fall it raised $34,000 less than the year before, when the station aired a mixed format.
Grehn points out that WETA changed programming after another local station had gone to all news. He anticipates that more than a few listeners might be unhappy with the new format.
Grehn and Franklin informed major donors of the station's changes in a letter sent last week.
"We have received phone calls," Franklin said. "No one has been irate. It's mostly intelligent people that listen to classical music. Ninety-nine percent of them have been disappointed and sorry, but they understand the business reality that forced you to go down this path."
The change in programming "does have a symbolic impact, but I don't think it's another nail in the coffin of classical music," said Michael Yaffe, director of the Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford. "As a field, we should be more aggressive in getting our constituencies to understand new technologies such as the Internet and satellite radio. And also getting people excited by the prospect of live music."
Franklin asked for patience as WNPR goes forward with its changes.
"I hope that listeners understand that we're not making a snap decision. I hope they can listen to the new service and form an opinion later," he said. "And call us with suggestions. We would like to hear from them."
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H.R.H. Nicole Marie
Eve was Framed