Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Classical Music Bites the Dust

When I heard that WETA, a public radio station in the Washington DC market, was going to drop classical music for more talk radio, I was ... profoundly disinterested.

I know, that sounds like heresy coming from a classical music lover like me, but it's the truth. Here's why.

I listen to radio a lot, often while working, always while walking the dog, always while in the car. Usually I go for news or C-SPAN type programming, not classical music.

But I still listen to classical music a lot. So why not WETA? The quick answer is, there are too many alternatives available to me. Besides, public radio has an agreement with the music industry that guarantees its classical music broadcasts will be less popular than they could be.

The last item first. Here's what the WETA web site says about why it does not list the times and titles of the works that will be broadcast today:

The current agreement between public radio and the music industry prohibits WETA from publishing our play list in advance of broadcast. Today's play list will be updated throughout the day as each piece is broadcast.

Got that? That means that you can't scan a list in the morning and plan to tune in at a particular time. Makes a lot of sense, right? I call this the "Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater" rule. The radio  industry, fearful of "digital rights" abuse (and TIVO-style recording) forces radio listeners on behalf of the music industry to seek out non-radio classical music alternatives.

Which brings me to the second reason why I don't care if WETA drops classical -- there are lots of alternatives,such as:

  • My existing CD and LP collection
  • My laptop PC with iTunes and the classical music CD's I've ripped to create specialized play lists (e.g., "Haydn Symphony Adagio Movements.")
  • Internet based streaming audio available through iTunes or other sources
  • The digital music channels available through my local cable system (at least three are classical music)
I'm just used to having choices. Granted, I'm not the target market for most broadcasting today. I'm a baby boomer with two older kids. I don't fit the younger target market desired by so many media outlets. So WETA probably doesn't care about me anyway.

So, WETA will add more talk radio. It will probably increase its overlap and competition with WAMU, another local public radio station. And I'll continue to listen to classical music -- somewhere else.


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