Monday, September 21, 2009


WGBH to buy WCRB....


Boston's largest public broadcaster, WGBH, is buying the market's commercial classical radio station, Nassau's WCRB (99.5 Lowell), ending years of speculation about the long-term future of classical radio in the Hub and doubling the daily radio output from WGBH's Allston studios.

Details of the deal are being announced this afternoon - but NERW believes it will involve the transformation of WCRB from commercial to non-commercial operation, in a move strikingly similar to WNYC's impending acquisition of New York City's WQXR.

Unlike that deal in New York, it appears that at least some of WCRB's airstaff will stay with the new WGBH-run 99.5. Like that deal in New York, it appears that the transaction will move WCRB into WGBH's Allston studios from the longtime WCRB facility in Waltham. And like the New York transition, it appears that the purchase of WCRB will allow WGBH to complete the shift of its main FM facility on 89.7 to full-time news and talk by day, which may explain the recent departure of WGBH afternoon classical host Richard Knisely.

There's no immediate word on a purchase price for WCRB, which last changed hands in 2006 as part of a complex deal that sent the station's intellectual property to Nassau and its former frequency, 102.5, to Greater Media. In recent months, Nassau has been beset by financial problems, with control of most of its stations passing to a group of lenders led by Goldman Sachs. That lenders' group now holds 100% of WCRB, which has been rumored to be up for sale - and the deal to transfer the station to WGBH closes the book on some strong rumors that had 99.5 becoming part of Entercom's cluster and perhaps flipping to sports as an FM home for WEEI.

And the move has implications for another format fight, too: assuming 89.7 goes full-time news and talk, how does WBUR respond to the new competition to its own very successful all-news/talk format?

More at the WGBH web site:

Keep Classical Alive: WGBH is taking classical music commercial-free 24/7, and you can play a part!

And from the Globe:

WGBH will buy classical radio station WCRB

Comments: reports the sale price at $14 million
"The 2009 price for WCRB is $14 million, and this new deal is brokered by Patrick Communications' Larry Patrick and Greg Guy for seller Nassau, and by Public Radio Capital for buyer WGBH."
This could be a very wonderful thing if handled properly. Things that need to go at 'CRB would include a constricted playlist that plays the same obvious pieces over and over and over (when was the last time one heard Shostakovich at the waltz/Copeland happy CRB?) Also, we could wave goodbye to all those irritating commercials. Long time listeners will remember when the commercials were more understated, making for a more seamless transition between art and commerce.
>>Things that need to go at 'CRB would include a constricted playlist that plays the same obvious pieces over and over and over<<

Wasn't that one of the things that made the old WCRB (102.5, under Mario and Charles River B'casting) the most successful Classical music station in the country?

Finding out people's favorite classical pieces and playing them a lot?
That is a valid point, but what makes other classical music stations compelling (WGBH and WHRV for example) is their willingness to foster a sense of discovery as well. CRB was doing this to a degree with Kieth's Classical Corner, but over time the audience favorites dwindled down to top 20 playlist of mostly Mozart. That is broadcasting under fear, not concern for the audience. Listen to WQXR on-line and you will hear that balance of pleasing an audience and stretching the boundaries with various forms of Mozart, not just the same redundant pieces. I hope CRB goes in this direction.
Cape Cod Broadcasting, owners of
the Cape's classical WFCC, country WKPE, AC WQRC, and soft hits WOCN filed for bankruptcy. WGBH could perhaps buy WQRC (good signal) or WFCC and put WCRB on one of those stations to fill in the gap of south-of-Boston.
Bargain basement price...?
'GBH buying acquiring something for Classical on the South Shore would be a great idea!
Forgive me, I am entering this conversation a little late. May I suggest if you are seeking for more variety you could simply experiment with other stations through online streaming. There is a great one in San Francisco called KDFC. I listen to it from San Diego. Funny thing, my sister, who lives in Baltimore, turned me on to KDFC. The internet provides wonderful options for music lovers.
Yeah, but this is about BOSTON RADIO... You can find lots of offerings on the web, on the satellite, and elsewhere around the country...

We are interested in what's on the Boston airwaves.
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