Don't Change That Station! | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Don't Change That Station!

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To the editors:

Thank you, dear Reader, for filling in a conspicuous gap in the information I receive from my usual source, WBEZ Radio. I refer, of course, to the Hot Type article in your November 26 issue about the sacking, from WBEZ, of Stuart Rosenberg, host of the most original, innovative and thought-provoking music program that I personally have heard anywhere in the world, including on Auntie Beeb in my native Britain, by Mr. Torey Malatia, a primitive life-form, previously thought by scientists, apparently erroneously, to be nonviable.

One might have thought that, having made the stupidest decision since the Hindenberg was filled with hydrogen, and executed it in the shabbiest and most underhanded manner imaginable, the station's decency would have sufficiently overcome its shame for it to inform its listeners and subscribers. But no. Station ID breaks during such fascinating substitute shows as "a bunch of scientists making a pathetic attempt to be funny" and "we can't be bothered to produce any real Radio Drama, but here's something an affiliate cobbled together out of a few performances of a kinda wordy play with a couple of well-known actors in it" made no mention of Mr. Rosenberg's fate. Hell! Even some of WBEZ's presenters seem unaware of the situation; Dick Buckley (may God spare his final brain cell!) this Sunday blithely announced that the Earth Club was coming up at 5 PM.

Why this wildly precipitate act? It is not so many weeks since Mr. Rosenberg's airtime was increased from two to three and ultimately to five hours. Does this not suggest a radio station which, to use a quaint British expression, doesn't know whether to have a shit or a haircut? Perhaps Mr. Malatia wants to look like Mr. Decisive. That is not the word I would use but . . . children may be reading. Keep taking the Ex-Lax, Torey, the Mohawk suits you fine!

As for Mr. Malatia's stated excuses (I will not dignify them with the name of reasons), they make no sense. He speaks of attempting a "rational . . . or aesthetic relationship" between the news and information that is the station's bread and butter, and its "other things." For myself, I can only say that, for example, my appreciation of the tragedy in the Balkans has been vastly deepened by exposure to the music of that troubled region. A few bars of the beautiful Jewish music of Sarajevo (which I have heard nowhere else than on Stuart's show) brings home levels of reality that a hundred Sondra Gair interviews never could.

But Mr. Malatia really gets his dentures stuck in his size tens when he starts making comparisons between Stuart's utterly unique program and the music programming on other, commercial stations. Comparisons with 'XRT and most risibly of all "to an extent Q-101" would be unworthy of comment had the guy been daft enough to make them. But when he says "A lot of the elements of that format are found at major competing radio stations . . . " he is speaking not of what Stuart Rosenberg ACTUALLY DOES, but of his own concept of a "modified Gumbo-esque program." Slick, slimy and slippery: has this guy ever considered a career in politics? He's missed his vocation. He's certainly in the wrong job at the moment.

I don't know: perhaps Mr. Malatia does appreciate the didactic value of playing an old sea shanty back-to-back with a piece of contemporary West African music. And he's just not letting on. Or maybe Stuart's right and he's got beans in his ears. This may be no bad thing: when a man has shit for brains, plugging the cranial orifices is a useful sanitary precaution. I have no idea where Torey Malatia is coming from. I just wish that he'd slither back there, and leave my radio station alone.

Irate (soon to be ex-) WBEZ member

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