To the editors:
Regrettably, your interview with William McCarter (September 4) only touches lightly on WFMT's continuing shortcomings for listeners of long standing.
As Bryan Miller notes and McCarter acknowledges, many of us did feel betrayed by a fund-raising effort that promised to maintain the station's standards, only to quickly resort to "canned" commercial messages of questionable taste. A further sense of alienation was created when subscribers to Chicago discovered that the WFMT listings which they believed they had already paid for had been removed from the magazine, and would now cost them an additional $40 per year. To my knowledge, no public apology for either of these acts has ever been offered.
The decision by WFMT to offer its own freestanding program guide may be backfiring on the station. One must ask how many of the people who are unwilling to pay the $40 fee have reduced the time they spend listening to WFMT, in preference to WNIB or recorded music of their own? WNIB makes it easier for listeners to know what its schedule is by offering a cheaper subscription, an easier-to-read format, and free individual copies of the program guide available at several major record outlets in Chicago and the suburbs. Certainly, recent Arbitron ratings suggest that WNIB leaves WFMT further and further behind in listenership. Moreover, to the extent that WFMT's ratings are diminished by such a process, one imagines that its advertising revenues will decline, eating up whatever financial gains derived from subscriptions to its program guide.
With respect to programming, WFMT still is wonderful in many respects. But the loss of programs devoted to old orchestral, instrumental, vocal music, and festival broadcasts from Salzburg and Vienna are unfortunate. The replacement of Marty Robinson's First Fifty Years by a program hosted by Peter Schickele is not an advance for the state of broadcast culture in Chicago.
Gerald M. Stein