Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Public radio station WNYC announced yesterday (Tuesday) it has acquired the last all-classical music station in the New York area, WQXR, for $11.5 million. WQXR was owned by The New York Times; WNYC is an independent nonprofit. The deal involved a third party, Spanish language media corporation Univision. The Times is making a solid profit as a result, reaping a total $45 million. It is uncertain at the moment exactly how the move will affect the already beaten-down classical music broadcasting for the Northeast area.

NYT first sold Univision the rights to WQXR's broadcasting frequency and accepted Univision's WCAA frequency, 105.9, in exchange, along with a 33.5 million. In marketing psychology, this swap automatically reduces the value of WQXR by pushing it to the edge of the FM radio dial. Then NYT sold the WQXR call letters and business to WNYC. WQXR is still broadcasting as of publishing time (7:54 a.m. Wednesday).

The deal will also reduce the strength of QXR's signal, but it is uncertain how exactly it will affect programming. Bloggers and online comments are immediately concerned that QXR's signal will be as weak as WCAA's current signal and that programming will shift to a variety format, a la WNYC, pushing classical music into the background.

Alternatively, WYNC could move its remaining music programs--the popular weekday "Evening Music" with Terrance McKnight for instance--to the newly re-located QXR. Any move like that could be bad news for us in Central New Jersey. I just tried 105.9 on my kitchen radio and I get nothing but static, while 96.3 comes in loud and clear.

Several large cultural institutions in New York, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School, depend on QXR to broadcast their performances. While those relationships are now uncertain, it is doubtful the board at WNYC would want to abandon such high-profile content altogether.

Many comments on news sites and blogs have painted this a positive move likely to preserve classical music on the New York radio. It also effectively turns QXR from a loss-making arm of a for-profit company to a nonprofit, following the successful model of WNYC's 93.3 and that also bodes well for the future.

For those of us farther away from New York City, it just may not be our future.


No comments:

Post a Comment