Played Out in Peoria

One of the latest bait-and-switch operations in Peoria is not playing well in some circles there. According to this post on, “On the Air: Last bastion for soothing music goes quiet,” by Steve Tarter, the move of music to HD hasn’t gone particularly well:

WCBU-FM 89.9, Peoria’s public radio outlet, goes to an all-news/talk format starting Monday when the station’s classical music moves to a 24/7 setup on WCBU2, the station’s digital band.

That digital band (available via computer or HD radio) returned to service last week after being off the air for a few days because of some technical problems.

Steve notes the planned move has opened to mixed reviews:

[T]he station, first tabbed “Wonderful Classics Bradley University” more than 40 years ago when the public station was launched, is making the right call in going to all news/talk, according to one listener.

“I regard music radio as low value radio,” said Jim Miller of Dunlap, explaining that music lovers have plenty of alternatives these days. “Music is easy to provide, but NPR news is not,” he said.

Another view from a reader: “If I want nonstop yapping, I can listen to KMOX, WGN, WLS and so on. If I want noise, I can turn on any station in the area. Some decent music to soothe the nerves? Not playing in Peoria.”

Then Steve takes a swipe at the HD scam itself:

Following that thought, without repeating what we’ve already stated in this column regarding HD radio (technology’s answer to the Edsel), the Internet and personal music collections are now the only calming alternatives for radio fans in this area, other than jazz offerings from Bloomington’s WGLT-FM 89.1/103.5.

And at least one comment agrees with that sentiment:

If I want 24 hour News, I can go to WBBM-780 AM. Those HD radios are expensive: at least $150. And you would need several for your house. And that still does not solve the problem of your car radio. I say for everyone to send no more pledge money to WCBU until this change is rescinded. Put that news format on the HD channel.

An interesting juxtaposition is this post on the same site from a Rev. D. Joe Dunlap, extolling the virtues of HD radio with the same scurrilous old claims:

All HD broadcasts, AM and FM, have much higher quality sound. Audiophiles, especially those who appreciate classical music, should be shouting for joy…

Perhaps some critics are predisposed to being malcontents about any change, assailing improvement and progress without verifying through civil discourse whether their complaints are valid. If hasty conclusion jumping were an Olympic event, such critics would all be wearing gold medals!

I hope instead a fairer approach will be taken, and WCBU listeners will move to embrace and enjoy this positive change. The arts in Peoria are better for it. And that’s a fact.

Apparently the comments show a lesser degree of enthusiasm than the reverend does:

DHS: The good Rev might make a better case if he avoided insulting the honest concerns, and intelligence, of the folks who disagree with WCBU’s decision.

kcdad: A minister and facts!!!! What a hoot.

EHopkins: Here are more facts: HD radios cost $100 to $150 each. You can’t buy a portable HD radio like the one pictured in the graphic in the print edition of the PJS. I have searched for one for months. They don’t exist. (One was made and got such bad reviews it was withdrawn from the market.) So you have to buy a tabletop model, tied to one room by a plug, or a small one that relies on ear buds, so only YOU can hear the music, not others in the room. I have one HD radio and like it. It’s in the family room. Other regular FM radios, small models, cheap to buy, are in the kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 studies, and the living room. Shall we replace all those with $150 HD radios? No. And I haven’t even mentioned the cars, with perfectly good stereo systems that don’t get HD radio. More expense to upgrade? Please… and the web reviews say you need an expert to install the HD upgrade. Now do you see the difficulties? Classical music, for all practical purposes and for most listeners, is off the air in central Illinois. Very sad.


One Response

  1. The contention that a classical music format only has the purpose of providing “soothing music” betrays considerable ignorance about serious music on the part of the contender. That Peoria still had a classical station was a badge of local pride, and the movement of that format to an HD side channel of dubious value to most of WCBU’s listeners is a major demotion. Dubious value? Well what sense does it make to purport to create higher fidelity broadcasts, that people will be forced to listen to over the small speakers of table radios? Furthermore, if the HD radio signal is as flakey as the HD TV signals, most of the listeners outside of Peoria will be plagued with drop-outs and sometimes hours or days of lost signal, when the wind blows or a cloud drifts over. Now I have heard several of the talk programs WCBU is said to be adding, but they would have made better sense to move talk into only one part of the day, leaving classical a stalwart on the main channel. People on the SW fringe of the WCBU broadcast area may at least be able to pull in WIUM-Macomb which still has classical mornings and evenings most weekdays, with NPR talk programs in the afternoon.

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