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Radio Waves

This just in: New York's WNYC, the country's largest public radio station, has just bought the classical music station WQXR from the New York Times, ending long speculation about the station's future.

The Times is getting a total of $33.5 million from Univision and $11.5 million from WNYC in a three-way deal that will involve the purchase of the station's call letters and website and its transfer from 96.3 FM to 105.9 FM. In the process, WQXR will become a public radio station (and lose some of its signal strength, therefore reaching a slightly smaller audience).

WNYC is also launching a $15 million fund-raising campaign to support the purchase and running of WQXR, co-chaired by the pianist Emanuel Ax, who likened this move to "saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecker's ball."

As a regular guest on WNYC's Soundcheck, I may be seen as compromised in writing about this event. But at a time when the recession is threatening classical radio stations, public radio, and newspapers alike, this is a nice happy-ending story about retaining a major station in one of the country's largest markets -- all the more so since WNYC, which came under heavy fire some years ago when it moved away from an all-classical format, now gets to play the role of heroic rescuer.

By Anne Midgette  |  July 14, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  national , news  
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That's terrific. It's just like when WGMS here left classical music broadcasting and WETA, which had dropped classical a few years before acquired their library and went to all classical.

Posted by: c-clef | July 14, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm old enough to remember the demise of New York's WNCN (104.3) -- murdered by a hard rock format at the stroke of midnight many years ago -- and the near-death experience of WQXR is indeed sobering. I don't listen to WQXR much these days, although my car still has a button set to it for when I venture north, and I had found it steadily more annoying. I do hope that WNYC doesn't decide to emulate WETA in jettisoning anything that can't be whistled and allowing its announcers to treat the listeners as needing to be cajoled into tuning in. Maybe they'll even broadcast an occasional concert performance, an effort that WETA seems to consider not worth the trouble (or too much for the budget, which may be the case -- and isn't that pathetic?).

Meanwhile, in one of those cosmic coincidences, mention of WQXR reminds me of their long-defunct show "First Hearing," which offered unrehearsed critiques of new releases by a team of critics, one of whom was Edward Downes. No, not Edward Downes the conductor, but another Edward Downes. Funny-strange, no? (The show was syndicated, and I think WGMS broadcast it for several years. Talk about the good old days!)

Posted by: BobL | July 15, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"But none of them addressed the station’s basic problem: as soon as the format switched from the morning news to losers, the listenership dropped precipitately." (Anne Midgette)

Say what?

Posted by: snaketime1 | July 15, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Did I say something offensive? Why has my comment been deleted?

Michael Scott if you choose to answer "offline"

Posted by: scottmp | July 15, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, snaketime, for catching a typo - sometimes the software eats my words.

And Michael Scott, your comment wasn't deleted - it appears under the next day's follow-up entry, "Radio Waves: Interference Patterns."

Posted by: MidgetteA | July 16, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

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