The Boston Borg

The ‘GBH borg in Boston keeps gobbling up stations in the region. WGBH is taking over the Bryant University station WJMF in Smithfield, RI, and facilitating a power increase from 225 to 1200 watts for WJMF, which, as of August, will become a simulcast of WCRB “99.5 All Classical,” the classical music station acquired by WGBH in 2009. The ‘GBH website bills this as “a partnership between Boston public broadcaster WGBH and Bryant University,” though that partnership shunts the students off to HD purgatory. The post shills this as giving students a wonderful opportunity to join the Brave New World of radio:

The reciprocal arrangement will give Bryant students the opportunity to learn from WGBH digital and broadcast technology experts during the summer in preparation for an August transition. WGBH has been a pioneer in expanding classical music onto new platforms, with live streaming, dedicated online streams, an all-classical HD channel, podcasts and mobile applications.

“Bryant has just taken a strategic step in a new direction with a terrific partner,” said Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley, “I am thrilled that this collaboration returns classical music broadcasts to Rhode Island while providing our students hands-on opportunities to master leading-edge technologies for delivery of WJMF music, sports programming, and talk shows not just in New England but throughout the country.”

The arrangement involves no capital commitment on behalf of WGBH, and Bryant University plans to maximize the 88.7 signal by increasing its power from 225 watts to 1200 watts by virtue of a recently awarded construction permit from the FCC.

Comments were not so bright and cheery:

WGBH taking over WCRB; Biggest disappointment of the past 10 years. Very little or no locally produced programming. Same old same old; announcers full of wind and blab and gab which gets in the way of any interesting programmes. Announcers so full of their own importance, that the main object seems to be the blowing of one’s own trumpet. And those bloody birds!!! Robert J. Lartzema spent the last 25 years of his life alienating thousands of WGBH listeners by waking everyone up to the dawn chorus, and now some chin-less wonder has decided to bring back the birds (hardly original!) C’mon, let’s hear some original programming!!!! Thank God for the “off” switch. —Wil Davis

As a Bryant alum, I have to say this is absolutely awful! My parents used to listen to my radio show on 88.7 every week. It was great knowing that the local community could potentially come across your show on their radio. I don’t understand what Bryant is getting out of this deal. No one has an HD radio. If Bryant students want to learn from GBH, they can apply for internships! —E

WCRB lost coverage of Rhode Island and areas south of Boston in 2006 when a previous ownership change resulted in a move from a powerful Boston frequency to a frequency well to the north of Boston in Lowell. Then, when WGBH acquired WCRB in 2009 and dropped all classical music from their 100,000-watt signal from Blue Hill for a Public Radio news/talk single format, classical music could no longer be heard in most of Rhode Island on analog radio. (The handful of people who happen to own HD radios can hear WCRB simulcast on WGBH’s HD2 signal.)

WGBH is expecting that the 1200-watt WJMF will bring the WCRB classical programming back onto analog radio in most of Rhode Island and also much of southeastern Massachusetts.

So, what happens to the Bryant University students who had been programming WJMF since 1972? They will soon be relegated to a new WJMF HD2 channel developed for them by the saints at WGBH (and will continue to stream on the internet). As Jennifer Waits notes on Radio Survivor, it’s par for the course that this change was announced after the end of the semester:

So far I’m only seeing official statements about this deal and haven’t caught wind of any protests from angry students, alumni or listeners. It’s notable that this was announced a few weeks after the end of the semester when I’m assuming not many students or faculty are present on campus. I can’t assume from the statement on the WJMF website that students, DJs, and listeners are necessarily in favor of these changes, as it will mean that their station will not be accessible to terrestrial listeners who do not own HD radios.

In the very least, the timing of ‘GBH’s latest venture is curious, as it recently beat down protests from union members and forced its “final solution” on the rank and file. That whole onerous episode didn’t in the least seem to dampen its vigorous pursuit of a media manifest destiny.

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One Response

  1. I’m pissed off that WGBH would wreck college stations around this New England region by replacing their homegrown broadcast and diverse music offerings with stupid voicetracking and a dumbing down playlist of classical music.

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