WBEZ: Less jazz, more talk

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Today’s Tribune has a pair of stories related to WBEZ’s decision to eliminate music programming in January. The better of the two is a fascinating profile of long-time jazz DJ Dick Buckley, 82, whose deep knowledge of early jazz remains unparalleled in town. According to the article, station management recently proposed a one-hour jazz program that would be cohosted by Buckley and fellow jazz personality Dan Bindert. But like an increasing amount of the station’s programming, music would be secondary to yapping -- in the form of interviews with “jazz artists, aficionados, and historians.” Buckley says he “isn’t thrilled” with the idea.    

The other story examines the efforts of Mike Widell and Hillel Frankel, who’ve organized the websites savethemusiconwbez.org and boycottwbez.com as desperate measures to force the station to retain its music programming. Unsurprisingly, their efforts have fallen on deaf ears at WBEZ, which has been strangely tight-lipped and vague about its future plans. (Although since making its announcement about the cessation of music programming last spring, the station has decided to keep some vestige of Passport, its world music show, and the aforementioned jazz program.) From what little station management has said about music’s role at the station starting next year, it seems that the proposed jazz show will be the template -- discussions and stories about music and musicians rather than music itself.

While there’s certainly a place for such broadcast journalism, this decision seems to imply that straight music programming is too sophisticated or too boring for listeners. That’s a rather sad assessment, and it only seems to bolster the station’s arrogance as an arbiter for good taste -- something WBEZ has not exactly excelled at with music programming over the last decade.

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