Whether you think that the policy changes of the last year and a half at WFMT are sacrilege or that, in the words of Sun-Times editorialist/provocateur Dennis Byrne, the Friends of WFMT should "get a life," you can express your opinion in one of three neighborhood Friends of WFMT "listeners' forums" scheduled in coming weeks in Hyde Park, Oak Park, and Evanston.
A proto-forum held at Roosevelt University in February brought out a large crowd of listeners and a handful of management types--including station manager Al Antlitz and his new boss at CETA (the parent of both WTTW and WFMT), radio commissar Tom Voegeli--as well as a remarkably nonconfrontational Studs Terkel. "We didn't know what we were going to get," at the February forum, says Friends executive Patricia Clem. "We asked people to bring their suggestions and ideas, and while some people just complained, we did get some thoughtful, useful responses"--including the suggestion that WFMT seek a subscriber base to enable it to ditch the jingles and other prerecorded ads that have fomented so much controversy.
"The first forum was very positive in having a very spirited and friendly exchange. I'd say it was pretty productive," adds Friends president Susan Lipman, one of four Friends-appointed members of CETA's radio committee. "Our main objective is to have a dialogue. The CETA board of directors manages WFMT in the public trust; we're holding these public forums so that those who have the responsibility of managing WFMT don't operate in a vacuum."
Clem is hoping that WFMT/CETA management will continue to be present at the forums; CETA radio committee members are pledged to be there. "I think that, strategically, WFMT and CETA see these forums as a way to bridge this enormous gap that's grown up between them and their listeners," she observes. "WFMT's listeners have felt out in the cold for a long time. We're trying to create a resurgence of optimism and hope that there will be positive change."
All three forums will be held on Tuesday evenings at 7:30. The first one will take place April 30 in KAM Isaiah Israel's Vick Hall, 1100 E. Hyde Park Boulevard. The second is May 7 at Unity Church of Oak Park (not Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple), 405 N. Euclid. Denizens of the North Shore will get their chance June 11 at Evanston's Unitarian Church, 1330 Ridge. For more information call 427-1299.