The Road Goes On Forever

In Tampa Bay, the chickens are coming home to roost at station WUSF, according to this post on tampabay.com. It seems that classical-music lovers are outa luck after a bait-and-switch changed their station to all-talk and promised them the world at the new all-classical station WSMR, says the article, “Classical music fans sing blues over reception of WSMR.” As followed in this post earlier, the plan by USF to move the station acquired from Northwestern College to classical ran into a series of engineering snafus initially, but now seems to have left listeners out in the cold:

For five months, opera and classical music fan Nancy Preis looked forward to the moment organizers would work out their problems and get 24-hour Sarasota classical music station WSMR-FM 89.1 on the air at full power.

Her wait ended last week when owner WUSF Public Media resolved WSMR’s interference problems with the Coast Guard and cranked the station up to full strength.

“All the publicity on this (told fans) to ‘Just wait until we’re up to full power,’ ” said Preis, 61. “I consider this to be a major screwup. You don’t announce that you’re going to do something and not follow through.”

Preis’ sentiments mirror those of other classical music fans in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties who complain that WSMR’s full power signal still doesn’t reach them from the station’s antenna near Venice. Plans to install a “translator” to extend WSMR’s broadcast to North Tampa may not help parts south, leaving an area that once was the core listenership of classical music broadcasts on WUSF-FM 89.7 without the means to hear WSMR’s broadcasts through regular, terrestrial radio.

There was one problem. Living in Seminole and working in the Tyrone Square Mall area, Preis — who sits on the board of the Florida Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Opera — couldn’t hear the station without fighting unappealing bursts of static. Now she has given up on ever hearing WSMR conventionally, convinced that WUSF has bungled the transition beyond salvation.

Tampa-based WUSF bought WSMR for $1.2 million last year to shift its classical music to the Sarasota station and offer daytime programming filled with NPR shows. Technical delays, interference issues and the decision to build a new antenna delayed the station’s full power debut from Sept. 15 to Feb. 22, forcing fans outside the Sarasota area to listen online or on HD radio.

My bad, says WUSF, so sad…

JoAnn Urofsky, general manager for WUSF public media, resisted some of the criticism, saying the station can’t know for sure how the reception issues will play out until federal officials approve the use of the translator antenna. She denied assuming large parts of Tampa and St. Petersburg wouldn’t receive the station, blaming delays on WSMR’s original owners, Northwestern Media.

Urofsky said the initial delays in September emerged when information provided by the station’s original owners turned out to be incorrect. As it became clear WUSF would have to build a new antenna for WSMR and handle interference issues with the Coast Guard, the time needed to complete the project swelled beyond expectations, she said.

So why didn’t she tell the public who was causing the delays? “Had we said anything, we would have jeopardized the business deal,” said Urofsky, noting WUSF didn’t finalize the sale until Oct. 22. “We had to redesign a station almost from scratch because of the condition we found it.”

Errr, not my bad. It was the last guy’s fault. Comments ran decidedly to the negative:

anon anon: It is unfortunate that the station chose to string listeners along by continually giving them the impression that it was a minor glitch and that the station would be on the air shortly. They could have been upfront and said they weren’t sure how long the delay in transmitting would be. In addition, the smarter thing to have done would have been to wait until after they had purchased the new station and done some test runs to make sure they could broadcast before switching the format. In any case, I’m getting sick of talk radio all the time & even though I can get the signal now I don’t like the music they are broadcasting that well. I will probably buy speakers for my computer & go back to listening to WNYC again.

LBear: It is clear now that the overpromise of the new signal was designed to tranquilize classical listeners so they wouldn’t raise a stink about losing 89.7. Public radio is switching to news-talk all over the country, at the behest of “consultants” looking for “ratings,” which they’re not getting in Tampa. Face it classical fans, you were snookered. Of course, once your donations drop off, they’ll have all the excuse they need to drop the charade and kill classical entirely.

slipe: When I first moved here in 1980 WUSF had programming broken into hour and half-hour programs with people lined up to tell us how clever they were explaining the snippets of classical music they played. They would occasionally import concerts, but more often syndicated programs with more smart people playing snippets. When everyone was hoarse they played jazz all evening and night.

We got a commercial classical station that played classical music 24 hours a day. WUSF realized people actually listened to that stuff and started just spinning classical records without the clever people explaining snippets. They drove the classical station out.

The only way they will realize we want classical programming that can be heard throughout the area is if people stop contributing.

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One Response

  1. “More truth-telling from the CRS ‘Town Hall’ about HD Radio”

    “A lot of that came in earthy language from Marc Chase, the former Jacor/Clear Channel programming executive and recently-departed Tribune exec. He’s got the Randy Michaels don’t-hold-back gene, which makes him valuable on panels like this one. Chase, now at NuVooDoo with several other Jacor/CC veterans, practically snorts when there’s a question from the audience about HD Radio. He says “if you add up all the money spent on HD, it would be billions” — and he doesn’t sound as if he thinks it was a great investment. And from a practical standpoint, he says, disparagingly, “I need to find 96.3-A something, so this is going to be on the classic country channel of a Hispanic station…”Chase also says “technology is a huge disrupter and it will kick the middleman right in the nuts.”

    http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/html/tri-03072011.html

    NPR is going for broke, with pushing HD Radio.

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