Concerns Expressed about WVTFBy Demetri Telionis
Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 29 - April 25, 1996
A few weeks ago, our public radio, WVTF, conducted its spring fund drive. At times like this, I always lament the fact that year after year, our public radio offers less and less of what I expect. What is frightening is that it does so by spending more and more money. I cannot help thinking that during the lean years when the state government has been cutting the budgets of so many state agencies and private industry has been aggressively getting leaner, WVTF's budget has been increasing by leaps and bounds, even accounting for the fact that government support is decreasing.
I am very unhappy to see the hours of classical music decrease steadily over the years and be replaced by... talk, talk, talk and some other programs of questionable value. Classical music is now a rarity on your radio dial. Did you notice that except for our "sleeping hours," i.e., a few hours after midnight, we get only six hours of serious music per day? All these other programs have been eroding our good music very slowly over the years. I am terrified at the prospect that this may continue. We must try to reverse the trend.
Here are some of the things that happened. The news has been devouring more and more time. "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" are first-class programs but it was enough when it was one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. All right, make it one and a half . But why four hours in the morning and three in the afternoon? And if this is not enough, every hour of classical music is interrupted with more news, making it impossible to program complete works.
After "All Things Considered," you must endure every day another hour of "talking," giving you all kinds of relatively useless information which, if you need, you could get from the appropriate source. Over the past few years, we lost all our evening concerts and had them replaced-to my personal frustration-by the Jeff Hunt show. So after 4 p.m., no more classical music.
Jeff Hunt is a charming fellow and I should confess that he kept me good company for literally thousands of evenings. But a few years ago, Jeff Hunt would launch the beginning of his show at 10 p.m., after the evening concert, with one hour of classical music, tastefully selected to compliment the earlier program. Now from 8 p.m. on, he serves us an assortment of unidentified quasi-modern music which sounds like Music by Musk, light rock, some form of jazz
Most of the weekend hours are already lost to a variety of shows that do not belong on public radio. I find "Car Talk" very cheap, "What do You Know?" somewhat funny and "Mountain Stage" a little entertaining. "The Prairie Home Companion" is a quality program but these programs do not belong on public radio. The next step would be to introduce a talk show, interviewing Hollywood actors and rock singers and some sort of a game where someone gets hysterical at the prospect of winning a few thousand dollars. We should not expect popular programs from public radio. The mission of public radio is to enrich and educate. I would love to see public radio get popular, but not by offering low-standard programming.
I and perhaps many others who have a full-time job have been particularly frustrated with WVTF's schedule, because it offered very little and now no good music at all during the hours that we can afford the time to turn to our radio, namely in the evenings. The weekends offer some hours of serious music but these too have been reduced. On many occasions I wrote to the manager suggesting that at least they should offer good music in some of the evenings. I never got any response, nor were any of my short letters published in their newsletter, which includes only flattering comments from the listeners.
So what can we do? I wouldn't go as far as suggesting that we should not support WVTF financially, although, in all honesty, I believe that the quality of the programming would go up, if their budget were to be trimmed somewhat. We don't need all these expensive programs. Just give us a few more hours of good music with Seth Williamson. But we should voice our concern. If this does not work, then maybe we should see what it takes to found a new radio station that would be more faithful to the spirit of public radio. I wonder whether the Virginia Tech administration could have some leverage on these issues. After all, Virginia Tech owns and operates WVTF.