Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Raining Lemons at WETA

According to a story in the Washington Post, the WETA/WGMS saga had a happy ending. WETA's total listenership is up, they've had the best pledge drive ever, and even more people have signed up to be member supporters of the station. WETA is now #5 in the Metro DC market.

One would think this would be cause for rejoicing, but remember WETA only returned to classical because their attempt to grab a younger news demographic fell flat on its face – and "rescuing" WGMS was the only way for them to save face.

Look at the remarks of Dan DeVany, WETA's general manager:

"It looks like a combination of things are working for us, People have realized that classical music on the radio resides here. It appears that WGMS listeners have found us."

"It looks like…" "It appears…" It reads like someone grudgingly admitting that something distasteful worked -- but they still don't want any parts of it. Even DeVany's picture accompanying the article communicates this conflict – IMHO it looks like he just bit into a lemon and is trying to force a smile.

Perhaps he's thinking about the other radio news – WAMU's audience is also larger. Without WETA's "me-too" news format diluting the market, WAMU now serves just about all of the public radio news listenership.

Leaping to the #5 spot with a format you couldn't wait to ditch – and watching your rival thrive with a format you couldn't get off the ground -- has got to be a bittersweet victory indeed.

It rained lemons, and WETA reluctantly made lemonade. They ought to put some sweetener in the batch and enjoy it.

- Ralph


  1. Maybe they should get rid of Dan DeVany and put some musicians and music lovers in charge of the station.

    Of course, when your trustees are artistically ignorant, they'll never listen, which is why DeVany is still there.

  2. Unfortunately, this is a problem throughout the public radio system. Increasingly the decision makers know little about classical music and aren't really interested in learning any more.

    If they have any public radio background, its usually in news, which is why so many stations have flipped to all-news, or AAA programming (folk/americana/singer-songwriter rock). I think their logic runs something like this: if we have to run music, can it at least be something I'd like to listen to instead of that boring classical stuff?

    - Ralph