Heard this morning on WNYC that the New York Times has unloaded its remaining broadcasting asset, which consists of the channel and facilities of WQXR, which has been a classical music landmark for as long as it’s been around. (One way or another, since 1929. Wikipedia tells the long story well.) The story on WNYC’s website says WQXR will become “part of” WNYC. I assume that means it will become non-commercial.
According to Bloomberg, the deal goes like this:
- “Univision will pay Times Co. $33.5 million to swap broadcasting licenses and shift its WCAA broadcast to 96.3 FM from 105.9 FM, which will become WQXR… WCAA will get 96.3 FM’s stronger signal.”
- “WNYC will pay Times Co. $11.5 million for 105.9 FM’s license and equipment and the WQXR call letters.”
WQXR was for a long time an AM/FM operation. The AM was on 1560, with a 50,000 watt signal out of a four-tower facility in Maspeth, Queens. The FM was for many years atop the Chanin Building, where it still maintains an auxilliary antenna. I have shots of the old and new antennas here and here. In 2007 the Times Co. unloaded its AM station, then (and still) called WQEW, to Walt Disney Co. for $40 million. It’s now Radio Disney, a kids’ station.
Since the 60s WQXR has shared a master antenna atop the Empire State Building with most of New York’s other FMs. This was their status in 1967. Wikipedia has a good rundown of what’s up there today. Scott Fybush also has a comprehensive report from 2003.
An open question is whether WQXR will remain a beacon on the dial. While other signals on the Empire State Building master antennas run 5000 to 6000 watts, the one on 105.9 is just 610 watts. According to WQXR’s Web site, the station and has an audience of nearly 800,000 weekly listeners. How many of those will lose the signal? Coverage maps from radio-locator.com for 96.3 and 105.9 are here and here.
For the fully obsessed, here is a current rundown of everything on FM hanging off the Empire State Building, or within 1km of it.
Meanwhile, says here WBCN in Boston, a progressive rock radio landmark, is also getting yanked. You’ll still hear it on the Web, or if you are among the appoximately five owners of an “HD” radio receiver and close enough to WBCN’s transmiter on Boston’s Prudential Building in the Back Bay. Meanwhile Boston will get more of the usual: talk sports and “Hot AC” music. (To me “Hot AC” always sounded like an climate control oxymoron, while “adult contemporary” sounded like a euphemism for pornographic furniture.)
Tags: Empire State Building, fybush, Scott Fybush, Times Co. New York Times, Univision, WCAA, Wikipedia, WNYC, WQEW, WQXR
The NY Times article has more on the deal including some info that may address your concerns regarding the signal for the new WQXR.
The NYTimes article downplays the severity of the signal downgrade. WQXR’s new signal footprint will be much smaller, and much more prone to interference in the urban canyons of Manhattan. The Times and WNYC are downplaying this in their announcements but think about it… Why do you think WCAA was willing to spend 35 million bucks.. for a slightly better signal, or a much much better one. In this day and age of downgraded radio station values, 35 million is real money. And the signal difference between the two frequencies is equally ‘real’.
Fully explored at my weblog, “Whither Public radio and serious music”, the URL is entered on your form.
For the sake of transparancy, I am a Public radio zealot and a WNYC Music fanatic.
What we have to hope will disappear is the WQXR culture of mediocrity. WNYC Music has been through a revolution in the past two years, with the erection of wnyc2, a 24/7 stream emphasizing “non-generic classical music” and “500 years of new music”. The revolution has included Evening Music , especially since the advent of Terrance McKnight.
Hopefully, we can look forward to a great 24 hour FM broadcast, and, for the more modern, a 128kbit stereo mp3 web stream, the only possible competition possible for wnyc2.
I am really very sad. WQxR was the only station I listened to. A big city as New York should have at least one good classical station and preferably more. Classical music will now be moved to a junk channel with bad reception in my NJ area.
Fascinating stuff…. I am, however, somewhat aghast at D.S.’ seeming abuse of HD. I won’t tell you that every Tom, Dick & Harry even here in (or near) tony Dumbo owns one, but I could not be happier with my purchase. Just as HD gave all the operators (and if that word has negative overtones, it most certainly SHOULD) 3 or 4 ways to make money, WNYC (to its credit) chose to serve 2 or 3 niches with the new “bandwidth.”
Yes, I CAN see the Empire St. Building from where I sit, so the eclectic c.m. feed from WNYC is as clear as it is interesting.
But I’m definitely one of those who think that there’s no going back to driving (or even crossing the street) for DVD’s, let alone waiting a couple of days for them to arrive in the mail…. Not that *I* am that impatient…. But everyone under 30 *IS* – and that’s probably not only a majority (counting certain ways) but an overwhelming majority counted the way media companies do – i.e., how much STUFF do those people eat, drink, buy, etc.
And while classical music and public radio obviously are anti-ageist – i.e., they’d have almost no audience if they lost the 50+ crowd, they’re not head-in-the-sand types. They’re even more focused on technology, because that’s how they go from a huge NY niche to a monstrous global footprint.
Obviously, as long as the car has anything like the importance it now has to life in America, radio (of the increasingly buggywhip variety) will hang in there, but I think the 1-2 punch the internet and ipods (and their rivals) have dealt it are even more likely to knock it out “for the count” than is the case with printed newspapers.
Hence, I think that the Univision people made a dubious “big bet” – I haven’t a clue how fragmented the “Hispanic” market is and/or how good they are at selling ads and programming…. WNYC, I believe, is just plain throwing away the better part of the $15 MM they’ve earmarked to this folly.
WNYC used to (may even STILL have) a once-OK “voice” named Steve Post. Now THERE’s someone with 5 remaining listeners – probably none of whom has ever donated a dime to WNYC. The classical music audience is a tad bigger, but there *IS* a reason they’ve basically replaced music with talk on 93.9 – inexorably. (Of course, they’re not alone.) I have mixed feelings about both the trend and the specifics, but I fall back on “unalloyed empire building” as the only plausible “rationale” for the WNYC/WQXR transaction…. Or maybe, there’s one HUGE classical music-loving Board Member at WNYC who held a gun to the station management’s head.
Last good-natured I-take-issue-with-DS – you speak of WQXR’s “brand.” I know you’re a kind of radio history buff, but branding usually has something to do with revenue generation. I’m not sure when WQXR ceased to be profitable, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t 20 years or more ago. Some say that it opted for a basically “pops” and warhorses playlist – presumably because it chose to follow, not lead, its audience. Of course, as even the abused step-child of the NY Times, they had some natural advantages and talent and good things, but just as I heard someone say that a “fair price” for the Boston Globe would be $1 (with the NY Times agreeing to do the right thing by some of the working people who made them big money in years gone by), WQXR has a near-zero value to WNYC any way I can analyze it.
And when you think what they’ve done to the station in an effort to replace “city money” with listener money, I shudder to think what the future holds in terms of pitching, pledge drives, etc.
Oh well, even if my pessimism proves justified, the impact of this awful decision is microscopic when compared to things going on in the bigger economy.
I’ve had relatively little to do with blogs, so I hope our “dialog” is not bad form. Just a couple of points on “redirect.” $75 (one time only) or so does NOT strike me as much of a factor in HD’s acceptance. I’m not sure that internet bandwidth is infinite, so alternatives should be given a chance (in a rational world). There’s a very interesting article in today’s NYTimes (bus. section) by an economist named Schiller – what’s relevant is in the first couple of paragraphs.
The best argument for HD radio in connection with classical music is that that genre appeals most to people LEAST in a position to deal with the much higher tech (not to mention cost) Int. radio alternative.
Last, I think you and others are mistaken as to the future of WQXR as a soon-to-be-former Times subsidiary. I seriously doubt that the NYT will be involved in a website streaming music – even if the costs are low, they’ve been burned and I think will exit the music/radio/sound “space” in toto.
That’s why, I think, interested people wonder what WNYC’s game plan (it’s ALL gonna be in their hands) turns out to be.
One last thing – almost off topic…. I think I read somewhere else that cars are like giant antennas as they roll around. The writer was essentially saying that – all other things being equal – you really do deal with reception problems by being in a vehicle.
True or false?
Oh yes – it’s clear to me (clearer than ever as a result of classical music being written about by its lovers a little more than usual) that just as Harry Potter has mostly ardent defenders and people who “don’t get it” at all, classical music has 30-50% “buffs” who could listen to Mozart et al to the exclusion of anything less than 50 or 100 years old, maybe longer. AND there’s 10-30%, I’m sure, who’ve had it up to here with the “old stuff.”
SO, … what internet “streams” (stations) (classical only or mostly) appeal to y’all and why?
I nominate WMNR.org, in good measure because I’ll bet it has less than 1% of the listeners that WNYC2 does.
Thanks so much for that long list. Perhaps others will be able to add some (many ?), so that I’ll go from having weeks worth of fun listening to YEARS.
I mentioned the Shiller article, of course, in connection with HD radio. I won’t dispute your guess that it has had very limited success in terms of “penetration,” but (a) the move, nationwide, to HD TV just a month or 2 ago COULD be a game changer; and (b) the reason I referenced Shiller is that SOME of the flaws you mention in connection with HD radio as it *IS* COULD be remedied, I hope. (And then, maybe, it would go “mass.”)
I appreciate your mention of CPB, since I was wondering why HD radio seemed to have so many SMALL players. I think you should consider that since people in the (commercial) radio biz are more aware and more frightened about how the music biz self-destructed, they KNOW that “business as usual” for them is only a whisker away from “going out of business.” HD radio (in some form) gives them a shot at a time that they NEED a shot.
Next, my mention of bandwidth not being infinite has to do with the internet as a “utility.” I’m sure you are mindful of the fuss that Comcast or TW made about “piggies,” who download HD movies all day and all night. I know that innovation “always” seems to stay ahead of demand, but common sense says that THAT cannot be a certainty going forward. That’s another reason why the “archaic” little dedicated box (i.e., standalone radio) may (still) be worth a long, hard look.
Crucial point re older listeners and classical music – HD radio represents an INEXPENSIVE (on an ongoing basis) SOLUTION! for them, so I don’t know why you used the word “wealthier.” I’ll bet that the 70-80 generation – and even, speculatively, the 60-70 one – does not have broadband in their homes and apts. to the extent you might guess at. PLUS, they probably prefer speakers to headphones, and not just a little bit.
Without meaning to be abrasive, your mention of iPhones in this context makes me chuckle – I was at Tanglewood recently, and while I could be wrong, I’d guess that the number of iPhones in the “house” was more or less than what you’d find in an average single Starbucks. (I think that’s what the brouhaha about WQXR is all about – telling its “average listener” to “get with it” … is not likely to change his/her listening habits in a big way.)
Couple of questions – what are “repeaters” (or whatever makes it possible for tiny WMNR to be heard far, far from its home base, Monroe, courtesy of something in Madison, CT – as far away in that small state as you could be?)
I don’t know if there are maps showing the TRUE reach of a station, but you do well to bear in mind things like “effective” reach. (I don’t mean that as a dig – I have no doubt that WMNR’s listener numbers all told do not come to a big number.)
This, of course, is relevant re WQXR, because one hears that they DID reach portions of NY’s suburbs (and exurbs, if that’s a word) by this type of technology…. Does the FCC routinely grant stations an OK to expand in this fashion?
Last, do you know whether the 105.9 frequency DOES broadcast from the Empire State Building. On WNYC’s blog, everybody and his brother are saying that WNYC should ready its “we need some extra wattage very badly and very quickly” appeal to the FCC. I’m guessing that NY is pretty saturated and that that “augmentation” might not be in the cards. What do you see as viable (technically) if this whole business (dedicated classical broadcasting on 105.9) comes to pass? … That is, if WNYC hears from thousands of listeners that the new broadcasts are sub-acceptable, what COULD be done about that? … Oh yes, what’s your guess as to “will it come in”/”how well” for
a) someone 1-3 miles away from the Emp. St. Bldg with plenty of big buildings in between;
b) someone 5-10 miles away in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx; and
c) someone 10-20 miles away in NJ (Maplewood, say) or Westchester?
Pingback from dustbury.com » NYT gets cash, QXR gets bumped on July 20, 2009 at 1:46 pm
THANKS again…. And this, VERY briefly from my end:
1) You or other readers might find this interesting:
Post #58, I can assure you, is representative of “input” from people who’ve given ANY thought to how the proposed changes will play out. (“Power to the people” has yielded to “power to the 24/7 classical music station, whatever its name!”)
2) AM radio? – interesting! … Only WNYC, he said snidely, would give that serious consideration, … but maybe it *IS* worth some thought.
3) You didn’t answer my question about your typical Manhattan apt. dweller. He or she most certainly can NOT (as a rule) see the E.S.B. from any window in his/her home.
I’m obviously no engineer, but since I get HD TV via OTA courtesy of a Terk or something on my terrace that DOES draw a bead on that tower, I’m wondering just how “forgiving” bricks, concrete, etc. are when it comes to radio signals.
In a previous “reply,” you said that cars have it all over most residences. I have to think that goes “double” for NYC apartments. My point is that if folks living near Lincoln Center are not covered or “marginally” covered by 105.9, WNYC will be in much hotter water than if they “merely” lose a comparable number of listeners in the wilds of NJ. (Remember what their call letters are!)
Pingback from Doc Searls Weblog · More on WNYC(s) + WQXR(s) on July 21, 2009 at 3:58 pm
Pingback from More on WNYC(s) + WQXR(s) | dv8-designs on July 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm
The reception for 105.9 in the Red Bank area is marginal with a Bose AM/FM radio. What length single wire in the antenna ‘plug in’ would be most appropriate to improve the FM reception?
Relief that I can get WQXR, I am in manhattan. My clock radio which would otherwise wake me up with wqxr will not, so I’ll go to jazz.
All you have to do is drive East on the Long Island Expressway. By the time you reach Exit 40 (a little bit East of Westbury) the WQXR FM signal is being buffetted by adjacent channels. By Plainview, Huntingon, Melville, and beyond, WQXR is buried by noise. Result: I’ve tuned back to 96.3 and have been enjoying the Latin music.
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