To the editors:
This letter is in response to Mr. Michael Miner's article [Hot Type, February 15], the Reader's second major story dealing with WFMT during the past year, and the fourth or fifth since their "crisis" began. Yes--we are aware of the difficulties they are facing--with finances, personnel, and ratings--but whatever the future holds for that institution, and we wish it well, we would like to say that the cultural landscape--or, more specifically, the fate of classical music broadcasting in Chicago does not hinge on its outcome.
In another part of our city is a calm oasis of classical music broadcasting, WNIB, which lives in peace and harmony, both with its listeners and with the real world. From modest beginnings, the station has grown, without fanfare or pretension, and now carries some of the finest classical music programming available on radio anywhere: the most prestigious musical programming from Europe--the cradle of our musical civilization--along with generous offerings of recorded music on new CDs and from WNIB's vast record library. New music is also given its day, with hour-long programs often devoted to the music of young composers, some virtually unknown, even though the audience for this music is small. WNIB is home to the Salzburg and Vienna Music Festivals, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; it is home to one of the longest-running classical music programs on air, the two-time Peabody Award-winning Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas. WNIB is a station which, while not on a crusade, has a mission--to serve Chicago's classical music audience--and to function as their "classical companion," as the station's slogan suggests.
Listeners have voiced their approval of WNIB's programs with their dials. In 1988 for the first time, published reports noted that WNIB listenership had surpassed that of its powerful rival. While some deemed this a "wobble" in the statistical sea, the next three years have confirmed that, on the contrary, it is an indication of a tide that is turning.
All things change. The world is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Cable television, computers, portable CD players, books on tape, etc all vie for audiences. WNIB has tried to respond to the marketplace. As the number of commercial classical stations has dwindled, WNIB has survived, grown, and prospered. No one dictates what people freely tune to in the privacy of their homes, offices, cars, or while jogging. If they do not like what is offered, they go elsewhere.
When the smoke clears, WNIB hopes that the "winner" is the music we in classical music broadcasting hold as the abiding value, in whatever format makes it meaningful to listeners and ensures its survival for the next generations.