CAB Minutes: September 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, New York, NY

The meeting ran from approximately 7:10PM to 8:40PM. The audience included about a dozen members of the general public, 2 or 3 WNYC trustees, and three WNYC staff members, including Noreen O'Loughlin, who gave a presentation and answered questions regarding the acquisition of WQXR.

The meeting was chaired by CAB chairperson Basya Mandel (BM). Other members present included:
Alfred Friedland (AF)
Monica Strauss (MS—vice chair)
Joyce Lannert (JL)
Michael Bauman (MB)
Allison Meserve (AM)
Ken Stewart (KS)
Gaye Leslie (GL)
John DeWitt (JDW)
Gabriele Schroeder (GAB)
Leslie Ehrlich (LE)
Tiffany Hall (TH)
Rachel Porter (RP)

BM introduces the CAB and describes their advisory role, and explains how they act as a conduit to the station, but are not the station themselves. She then introduces Noreen O'Loughlin (NO).

NO: Thank you. We're really excited to become a torchbearer for QXR and to preserve classical music in New York City. This is very new for us. We just got authorization from the FCC last week. We're moving very quickly so I can't address programming except to say that it will remain 24 hour classical. Once we're closer to the switchover, we would love to have Laura Walker share with you more details.

(Slide show begins)
First slide: Goals.

  • To preserve & strengthen classical music on NY radio dial.
  • To improve the listener experience

Second slide: History

  • NY Times decided to sell QXR & frequency 96.3
  • NY Times sold 105.9 & QXR brand & equipment to WNYC
  • WNYC has been interested in finding another FM frequency for music programming for several years
  • WNYC is delighted to be able to preserve QXR as the sole classical music station in NYC.

Third slide: Changeover

  • QXR will remain all classical
  • The switchover will take place on 10/8/09, at 8PM, live from Carnegie Hall, during the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's first concert of the season
  • The Metropolitan Opera Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, and The Philharmonic This Week will continue. All else is to be determined.

Fourth slide: Plans

  • From 10/8, QXR will be run as a listener-supported, public radio station
  • Fundraising will include fund drives
  • The current volume of commercials (up to 18 minutes per break?) will be replaced with 30 second underwriting spots
  • WNYC short news updates will be on QXR throughout the day

Fifth slide: Funding

  • WNYC has established The Campaign to Preserve Classical Music in WNYC
  • Emanuel Ax is the co-chair of the campaign
  • Nearly 7 million has already been raised toward the 15 million
  • The Jerome L. Greene Foundation has donated a 5 million dollar challenge grant

Sixth slide: Signal Range & Power

  • We expect the terrestrial signal on 105.9 to reach 86% of the audience that 96.3 currently reaches (approximately 14.6 million people)
  • The station will operate at the full legal power licensed by the FCC
  • The strength of the 105.9 signal is dictated by the class of the license given by the FCC (B1)
  • We are exploring other options to increase signal range including repeaters and translators

Seventh slide: QXR online

  • We will offer the QXR webstream from day one, which will be comparable to CD quality
  • We will continue our classical music stream


Lex Kaplen (LK): What about people who bookmark?

NO: There will be automatic redirection.

David Caplan (DC): What effect will this have on FM programming?

NO: Unknown as yet, but we will not have Evening & Overnight Music. Terrance McKnight & David Garland will move to QXR.

GL: You say you'll take Terrance McKnight & David Garland to QXR in a different format. I like the current format. It's very interactive. It makes me feel like it's my station.

NO: It will be different than (on?) QXR, but they will still be blogging. As I said, it's all very new.

LK: Will Spinning on Air be preserved?

NM: Some shows will be preserved - Jonathan Schwartz weekend, John Schaefer's two programs, Spinning on Air...but we're still making these decisions.

RP: How will these decisions be made? What factors will be used?

NO: We haven't formulated a full plan yet. We're not going into it intending to make radical changes, but we haven't coalesced a musical strategy or staff yet. As far as we are is that we want to preserve & celebrate classical music.

GL: Can a place be found for jazz? (Question was overlapped by following comment)

KS: To the extent that you can, you should alert listeners to all stations regarding the migration.

NO: We are already advertising on those stations of the change.

KS: Are you paying for those spots?

NO: I can't discuss the details of the plan, but obviously we're concerned to alert everyone. We're doing as much as 2 minutes per hour, also on the QXR & WNYC websites.

MB: What's concerning me is that it sounds like there will be less diversity & music. You're doing away with Evening Music?

NO: This meeting is premature. We're looking for an HD stream...we haven't yet been able to secure one.

MB: QXR is very different, it's much less diverse. I love Terrance McKnight's and David Garland's programming. It's fairly unique.

NO: That's great to hear. We want to be thoughtful and mindful of what listeners want to hear. It will take us time to evolve this plan. I wish we were having this meeting a month from now.

MB: I know there are still people who are annoyed about the loss of classical music from WNYC. Why buy QXR? Why not just revert?

NO: FM 93.9 is very vibrant, and has brought it a lot of new listeners. That wasn't considered. We'd been seeking this option for a while.

LK: This is a work in progress, right? What we're doing on 10/8 isn't what we'll be doing in a year, right?

NO: Yes. We have a bright and curious audience and I'm sure QXR does, too, but we don't have specific plans yet.

JDW: The overnight programming currently on QXR has become a no-announcer format, whereas WNYC does have an overnight announcer. I assume that the current staff of QXR will no longer be their employees and everyone will be working for WNYC. Will the offices be moved to here? Do you have enough room?

NO: Yes, they're moving here. We're equipped to make the change.

JDW: The crossover between the two audiences is what, about 20%?

NO: About 25%.

JDW: This is an opportunity to expand audiences. The programming migrating is not necessarily a bad thing. There is jazz in our market--WFUV. It's not a negative. QXR has a great library. But the challenge will be getting the word out. I hear them [the informational spots] on QXR, and that's where they need to be. It's very important to keep that going.

NO: I think The Times is very interested in having this go well.

RP: You mentioned that John Schaefer will be involved in programming. I'm wondering if others such as Terrance McKnight and Sara Fishko will be involved.

NO: I can't say at this point, and you can't infer what the programming will be based on who the team will be. Believe it or not, we're not there yet.

JDW: Would it be helpful for us to discuss what we'd like to hear on QXR?

NO: Sure. We're here to have a dialogue. We're also collecting comments online.

MS: The whole point of the having the Community Advisory Board and having the community join us to have that input. It's very important to respond to us and to audience suggestions. I think it's key.

AF: Thank you for a comprehensive foundation. Is the Greene donation contingent on a match?

NO: It's a 1 to 1 match, yes.

AF: Will there be QXR fundraisers?

NO: That's unknown. We're currently working with WNYC staff.

BM: Are there any other CAB questions before moving on to the audience?

JDW: Are there union issues here at WNYC? QXR has AFTRA.

NO: We're AFTRA, too.

BM: Regarding what will fill the FM band once Terrance McKnight & David Garland move over. Some broadcasting is already repeated. Will there be more simulcasting & repeats?

NO: What would you be interested in hearing?

BM: There's endless talent here in NY for music etc. Also shows that have been dropped. I could listen to Steve Post all day. Any number of things. I could get back to you at a later time.

NO: I would love it.

JDW: Doe the 50/50 rule still apply re: simulcasting?

AF: I think it's been rescinded.

LK: I'm a trustee, so I probably shouldn't be talking. I think the QXR we're talking about is a shell of what it used to be. I've been listening since 1970 and it's changed tremendously. The quality has gone down. We have an opportunity to make it as good as it was, but in a different way.

AF: I agree with everything you said, to the word. I've been listening not quite since 1947 but almost. They had live concerts. It was a center of culture. But no longer; it's slipped.

JDW: There's always the danger of a successful operation becoming complacent. The programming has become a bit stale. There are so many musicians who live in NY. There are many ways to improve the station. But that will require time. We can both preserve and expand over time as we learn how to do it better.

NO: I think that starting with a live concert is a signal of our commitment to excellent programming. I hope we'll meet everyone's expectations.

(Audience member asks about Live from Lincoln Center)

NO: Only 2 shows are definite so far.

(Bit of popcorn discussion re playing movements vs. entire symphonies)

BM: Let's open it up to audience questions.

Audience member: I'm very concerned about the 105.9 signal strength. How far will we be able to hear it?

NO: 86% of current listeners will be able to get the signal. 105.9 has a class B1 license. The signal travels approximately 38 miles, but not in a straight line--buildings interfere with it.

Audience member: What is B1?

NO: It refers to the strength and direction of the signal.

GAB: How does it compare to our current FM signal?

NO: It's smaller.

JL: Any intention to apply for a higher class license?

NO: It's not possible--it's too crowded.

JDW: (Elaborates on crowding of band) Your engineer [Jim Stagnito] has explained the intention to obtain translators, etc.

NO: We definitely are on it.

BM: What will the new QXR do to avoid going the way of NCN?

NO: Our intention is to build a vibrant radio station on the model that has worked well for WNYC.

BM: Congratulations. I hope that QXR will remain true to classical, not trendy pop, e.g. Jonathan Schwartz. I hope that classical won't disappear from WNYC.

NO: I think we've addressed that.

GL: How about Live From the Royal Albert Hall?

Audience member: That's a great idea. NY isn't the center of classical music. (Mentions several programs outside of NY, e.g. Promusica, Sunday Baroque) London is, really. There are also things like Afropop Worldwide. You need to reach out a bit.

AF: Do we pay for the NYC stream, not the one that's broadcast?

NO: We license it through PRI.

RP: You mentioned that WNYC had been looking for a station for a long time. What audience research have you done regarding what gaps there are, and what needs to fill? Your thoughts re: the nature of that market?

NO: Part of it is mission-driven, and part is audience-driven. It's not the fastest-growing market segment, but we felt a need to fill a gap left by the change in classical music programming. The talk format has been very successful, but we want to reach out to new listeners and hopefully build the audience for classical.

JDW: I never get to listen to Brian Lehrer & Leonard Lopate during the day, and I sometimes catch them at night. Perhaps you could re-broadcast them from 8PM to midnight. Great Performances is another option. There are so many options--you shouldn't have a problem finding things to broadcast. I think there is room for two music stations.

BM: Does that $7 million include the $5 million match?

NO: Yes, we're trying to raise $15 million in one year (by October, 2010).

DK: (elaborates on the match)

JDW: What is your expectation or hope for the other 75% of QXR listeners who don't cross over currently?

NO: Obviously we're optimistic. Our intention is to provide a better listener experience. If we provide a unique, high quality environment - WNYC and other public stations really distinguish themselves. No one has gone through this exactly, but other stations have been successful going from commercial to public. We have some strong signals regarding the vitality and are hopeful.

BM: John DeWitt's extensive background in both commercial and public radio all spark his interest in both QXR and WNYC. I'm pleased to hand the discussion over to him.

JDW: Do I have to double my support? (Laughter) The idea that we can build a dedicated audience with whatever changes come--the popular notion is that WQXR is a top 40 classical station. That's not entirely true. There's a fairly wide range of music. It is (conservative?) but it's good programming. I think the inventiveness that WNYC has displayed, for example with the Leonard Lopate & Brian Lehrer shows, and losing the municipal albatross, you've found, could not have bought a frequency for anything close to this price. Does the audience have additional questions?

Audience member: Thanks to the WNYC staff and board, and also to the CAB. I came 60 miles, from Central New Jersey. WNYC sounds more commercial of late, as does QXR. Ever since 9/11 the signal strength in fringe areas for TV has been much worse. We're not going to get the new QXR. We've already lost a lot of TV with digital. I'm angry at the FCC. It's difficult to get any kind of tv service that carries any NY stations. I'm concerned that the radio won't have the same strength. TV managed to do it...where there's a will, there's a way. I wish you would explore the possibility of repeaters etc to increase the signal. In terms of non-music programming on QXR, I miss the "from tomorrow's front page of the NY Times." Is there room for some of the NY Times reporters on QXR or WNYC?

JDW: How far, where do you live?

NO: We have a strong editorial partnership with the New York Times in the context of The Takeaway. We love those folks, and our doors are open to them.

DK: Regarding the headlines from the New York Times--it was a remnant of a day when you had editions. Now you can go online. They change all the time. It's had its day.

Audience member: Regarding getting the word out. I heard [this meeting] announced, but couldn't find anything on the site. I had to get called back after leaving a message.

YT: It was on the site in two different places. Where would you like to see it?

(Several people, including CAB members, say that it was hard to find)

GL: It took me about 10 minutes.

YT: We are building a calendar.

Audience member: I'd like to see events on the front page.

GAB: Also, several pages were had to scroll down to see the text.

Audience member: Another thing mentioned on air frequently is that you can get it on a computer. I have multiple radios throughout the house. Computers can't replace them. Don't give up on radio. Also, I used to volunteer. We used to ask if you were listening to AM (talk) or FM (music). More people said FM than AM. We gave money to get transmitters back up. I didn't know that Laura Walker would assume that I was voting against music. I was tricked.

JDW: We appreciate the strength of your feelings. Unfortunately, we're nearly out of time.

LK: There are only a couple of thousand people who listen regularly to Evening Music. I'm sorry to say that "I love it," but it's true.

NO: QXR has 850,000 listeners. We took all these factors into consideration and still feel we can have a healthy, vibrant station.

BM: Sorry, we have to conclude. Thanks very much to Noreen O'Loughlin. (Applause) Thanks to the audience. We invite you to attend regularly.

(Move to CAB business)

BM: Gaye Leslie has been working on a forum to focus on science & math. We don't really have time in our schedule. I would suggest that it be voluntary.

GL: I got a sense that people would be interested. I don't want to cut out our business meetings. I went ahead and looked into where we might have room for an educational program. I found a special school for math & science for women. The USA is very behind in training students in math & science. The school is very interested.

BM: And how does it relate to WNYC?

GL: All our forum panels culminate in how WNYC can serve the audience and public with respect to the topic. How can WNYC be used by people involved in the discussion?

BM: I think before we put it to a vote we need to insure that the questions directed to the panel are very tightly focused so that we don't veer from our stated goal.

GAB: Is there a date?

GL: Not really. Possibly January, but we need to secure a space, then a date.

MS: Can we review the forums already planned?

BM: There's nothing else on education.

(Vote is taken. 10 out of 14 vote to approve)

BM: The motion is approved. Move to adjourn?

(Motion is seconded and meeting is adjourned)