Sunday, January 07, 2007

Parsing the possibilities

Undoubtably the best source for Washington area broadcast industry news is Dave Hughes’ DCRTV’s coverage of the WGMS debacle has been outstanding –- especially this past week. In quick succession it was reported that

1) Bonneville would kill the classical format even if Dan Snyder didn’t by the station.
2) When the story broke, Bonneville officially denied it, stating they were “absolutely commited to doing everything possible to keep classical music in this market.”

While there was some speculation that the deal was just stalled rather than dead, Snyder was quoted in the Washington Business Journal that he probably won’t buy it.

Make sure you read DCRTV’s analysis of the whole thing, it’s well worth it.

What I want to hold up for consideration is the danger of assumptions. As you read the Washington Post and the various other news and industry sources commenting on these events, it's assumed that should WGMS change formats, WETA will, too. There’s also a certain amount of wishful thinking that WGMS will remain intact.

Look at the language. Bonneville doesn’t say they’ll keep WGMS classical. Read the quote again. They’ll do “everything possible” (as defined by them) to “keep classical music in this market.”

WGMS as listeners knew it, is already dead. The staff’s been fired, services have been discontinued –- if the deal goes through Bonneville’s already in the position to flip the station to another format. Sports/talk appears to be the front runner. They could put classical on one of their other stations, but hold that thought for a moment.

The second assumption is that WETA will automatically go to classical if WGMS changes. What actually happened was that WETA’s board authorized management to consider reverting to music programming. Not quite the same thing.

So Bonneville can dump classical, and WETA doesn't have to change. Bonneville can say they did “everything possible,” but it was too difficult rebuild the station with a classical format. And besides, they thought that WETA would pick up the slack. WETA can point to Bonneville as the bad guys, and say they considered the change, but it wouldn’t serve their listeners as well as their current news/talk programming.

And no one’s done anything they said they wouldn’t.

Too cynical? Possibly. Stay tuned and we’ll find out together.

- Ralph

And what makes the picture appropriate? While everyone's watching the battle, I'm looking at the unnecessary path of destruction created by these monsters that, in the end, will just walk away no worse for the wear.

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