Competition bumps commercial classical music station off the air

Classical music on Lamoille County radio station 101.7, WCVT-FM, will be replaced by more contemporary tunes along with news, starting July 1. The new format will be broadcast on a combined signal called “The One” on 101.7 and 101.5, WEXP-FM.

WCVTWCVT was one of the country’s last commercial stations broadcasting classical music, said Eric Michaels, vice president and general manager for the station’s parent company. The locally owned Radio Vermont Group also operates 550 WDEV-AM, 96.1 WDEV-FM and 93.9 WLVB-FM.

Radio Vermont started its classical station in 1997, and Michaels said it was well-loved.

“But loving it and supporting it are two different things,” he said.

Competition from Vermont Public Radio crowded WCVT out of the market, according to Radio Vermont president and CEO Ken Squier.

“Economically, we just couldn’t make it work. And we don’t beg,” Squier said.

VPR, an affiliate station of National Public Radio, split its mixed format programming into two signals in 2006. Squier said the market for classical music in north central Vermont is not big enough to support both Radio Vermont and VPR.

Robin Turnau, VPR president and CEO, said the 2006 decision was driven by increasing demand for the classical music and news and information programming VPR offered.

“It was getting harder and harder to serve both,” Turnau said.

VPR started as a mainly classical station in 1977, she said, and had gradually introduced more news and information as NPR programming expanded.

Michaels said in addition to the growing challenge of raising advertising dollars for WCVT, the Radio Vermont Group realized an unusual opportunity when it acquired 101.5 FM. Instead of broadcasting two signals close together on the radio dial, the proximity makes it easier for Radio Vermont to brand a unified stream aimed at a broader audience.

Michaels said the programming will be hosted live and produced in-house.

“We didn’t subscribe to a satellite program or anything like that,” Michaels said. “It will be a multi-genre contemporary music format with a wide variety and many songs that are not typically played in our market today.”

Longtime classical music host Brian Harwood will retire. Weather forecasts from Roger Hill will continue, along with news and information from the Radio Vermont News Network.

The new morning drive-time program will bring former DJ Marion Carol back to the airwaves for “Wake-up 101 with Marion Carol,” from 6 to 9 a.m.

Frankie Allen, currently afternoon drive announcer on WLVB-FM, will take the role of music director on 101 – The One. His new program, “Allentown,” will air from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Jim Knight will host “The Edge of Knight” from 1 to 7 p.m.

The format change will take effect July 1 at 6 a.m.

Follow Hilary on Twitter @nilesmedia

Comments

  1. Jacob Miller :

    Sad news.

  2. Sad news is right!

  3. Jessica Noyes :

    Those who support VPR are not just supporting the programs they love. They are also assisting in the demise of responsible, mainstream, commercial radio and print news sources. Those checks they send in are making it possible for VPR to run originally sourced news on their web site, thus competing with statewide newspapers. The VPR site also contains a section for local select-board meetings, competing with the tiny local papers. I imagine that their much-vaunted tours also compete with whatever is left of Vermont’s travel agencies. As VPR extends its tentacles into every sort of media, the fund drives extend into weeks. (Maine Public Radio fund raises for one day per year and manages to run ten radio stations.) I would like to see members of the VPR “community” get behind their local, flesh and blood communities, and force VPR to dial it back.

    • Well said Jessica. Thank you.

    • Peter Liston :

      I know that my local weekly is fairly incompetent at reporting actual news. They certainly don’t cover every selectboard meeting. And they certainly aren’t interested in tackling state wide issues.

      That said, I listen to VPR AND subscribe to the local papers. It’s not either / or. I also listen to Mark Johnson and WDEV in the morning and read VTDigger.

      More news sources are better than fewer. We need more good journalism, not less. Good journalism should be supported by the listeners/readers.

      The high quality of VPR’s reporting is a good thing for Vermont and takes nothing from the local newspapers.

      Radio stations are famous for changing formats with some frequency. WCTV will continue to serve the region. It’s not going away. They’re just switching out their DVD collection.

    • Peter Liston :

      Also, there are no other news sources that compile minutes from Selectboards like VPR is going. Their #publicpost project is truly groundbreaking and it’s a great service to Vermonters.

      Local papers might cover one or two key meetings a week. That’s valuable and it won’t be going away. VPR’s #publicpost is different all together … it’s a broader look at local issues.

    • Moshe Braner :

      Jessica: so you are all for “competition” and “choice” until people choose to support VPR?

      That said, I agree that VPR’s air time dedicated to fundraising has grown well beyond the reasonable. It seems to be 4 times a year, close to 2 weeks long each, that’s a major portion of their total annual air time. I think that instead of deciding how much money they “need” (to purchase some rather expensive programming) they should set the programming to fit the amount of money that their membership offers up.

      And they air commercials too, although they call them something else. Excessive commercials (on what is supposed to be noncommercial radio) drove me to stop contributing to VPR some years back. Thankfully they’ve cut it down some since.

    • Nancy Robinsson :

      i thought there was some problem with my car radio signal, but after two days of disapppointnent, I googled and found this.I am heartbroken. Such a loss!

  4. Anne M. Imhoff :

    WCVT is the only classical music station I can get in Waterbury. VPR’s classical station doesn’t reach into downtown Waterbury. There is already too much news and pop music stations. What is a classical musical lover to do?

    • Peter Liston :

      Pandora. MP3. Stream on vpr.net. There are more options for music content now then ever before. WCVT and VPR are not the only shows going.

    • Karl Riemer :

      and plain old cds. Buy a used 50- or 100-cd changer; be your own music director.
      Write your own commercial-free 24-hour playlist.

      • This is what I do. Classical CDs are very cheap now for the most part. As Karl said, be your own music director. iPod in the car. Mine is 160 gig, which means I can have access to a rather huge chunk of my collection on the go. No commercials. No playing conductors and composers I don’ t like. While I’d like to see more people exploring classical music, I doubt most people come upon it through the radio for the very first time. Those listening are already the converted. For the rest, there are plenty of other ways to get content these days.

  5. Joseph Whelan :

    What about classical CDs ? No annoying ads; no annoying fund raising; no fees, e.g. XM/Sirius and others.

  6. Paul Richards :

    Some of the public radio programing is unique and good. Unfortunately looking at the big picture, it does run more like state run media than a balanced news organization and a lot of the content is one sided. I also don’t think it is necessary to have so many public radio stations crowding the air. If you are driving up I89 and hit scan on your radio you can usually get at least 6 public radio stations across the dial. That’s a bit excessive.

  7. Steven Farnham :

    VPR has become a plodding behemoth. With twenty or thirty stations in their network, they could offer programming which is local to small communities all over Vermont, but instead all VPR stations simulcast the same “lemonade,” which most listeners seem eager to drink.

    VPR does broadcast some good stuff, but their morning and evening drives are chock full of endlessly-repeated news of war, terror, state department, stock market and other commodity news schlock.

    As for WCVT, I enjoyed it most in the morning when Linda Radke subbed for Brian Harwood. While Brian provided enjoyable selections as well, he seemed to be too fond of marches, movie scores written by John Williams, and other stuff that is too noisy for one to enjoy with breakfast.

    I wish Brian well. He has risen early in the morning to serenade us for many years, and is a great asset to the community. For that he deserves a long enjoyable retirement.

    Competition is not all that did WCVT in. Being commercial didn’t either. What killed WCVT for me was AM-radio quality advertising on what was supposed to be a classical FM-radio format. I tuned out long ago because I couldn’t stand my classical music being interrupted by haranguing car salesmen; a pedantic, lecturing dry cleaner lady; those two used-car idiots with their “slicker’n deer guts on a doorknob” metaphors; and other finger-nail-on-chalkboard voices hocking junk I didn’t want, didn’t need, or both.

    Just because it was commercial didn’t mean it had to be obnoxious, but my efforts to inform the powers that be at Radio Vermont went with no response – never mind a favourable one.

    Handing the station over every morning at 08:00 A.M. to a satellite service with the world’s shortest playlist three-quarters of which were performed by Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin In The Fields didn’t help matters any either.

    To me, WCVT was a great idea – rather poorly executed – they seemed to put it on the air, and then forget it was there. Eventually, I forgot about it too.

  8. Jason Wells :

    VPR what a mess. My main frustration with the classical broadcast is this. First of there are not many classical listeners in the State that’s just a fact but what puzzles me is why on earth is VPR spending so much cash putting up towers all over the State for a service not used by many people it’s supposed to be public radio right? I could see the expense if there was some type of variety in the programming but there is not.

    This is just speculation but it seems to me VPR is catering to the upper income or high value donor group and forgetting about the larger majority of listeners. Sounds a lot like our Fed and State Government doesn’t it?

  9. virgiinia burgess :

    VPR has effectively destroyed one more local station. It has taken a choice away from listeners. It disguises its constant fundraising in the guise of ‘informing’ (warning?) listeners about how to avoid the duration of their next fundraiser. It hides advertising as “underwriting”. Quite an impressive litany for a station allegedly dedicated to the best interests of the public. Too bad for those of us who actually support local radio. Shame on our new monopoly. Public Clear Channel is still reprehensible!

  10. BJ Klaus :

    If you think that VPR is any substitute for the “Vermontness” that we all received from listening to WCVT and its wonderful station hosts and personnel, then it would be safe to say the analogy between sleeping at a Super 8 and a Hilton would not be interpreted by you. The character of the station was most outstandingly Vermont. The selections were tended and cared for by the various hosts, often in directed response to their listener’s wishes. “Our” hosts were congenial, not detached, informative and knowledgeable, not invisible. They were not cute and full of themselves. They were flesh and blood people, who were part of their audience. That is what made them so unique. If there is any way that this mistake can be rectified, I believe your general audience will be grateful to be part of the reconstruction process. Please bring back this unique station and anyone who needs to come back out of retirement, please do so for the public good. And to the GM, I would ask you to look at all the stations around 101.7. Soft rock, rock, and other such goodies abound out there. The voices of Chopin, Rachmaninov, Rutter, etc., are no longer to be heard. But we can surely hear rock. What a waste, what a shame. Shame to the General Management. If it is all about money, be clear enough to say it and give us a second chance to buoy up our radio station of choice.

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