Jul 14, 2009

WNYC acquires Times Co.'s classical WQXR

A three-party radio deal announced today in New York will bring WQXR, a classical music station operated by the New York Times Company, under the ownership of WNYC. The agreement involves a frequency swap with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which will take over the 96.3 FM frequency where WQXR now broadcasts classical music. Pending FCC approval, WQXR will move to a weaker signal on 105.9 FM and program classical music as a service of WNYC. The Times Company will receive $45 million from the sale, $11.5 million of which will be paid by WNYC for the WQXR license, transmission equipment, call letters and website. With the announcement, WNYC launched a $15 million Campaign to Preserve Classical Music Radio in New York City to finance the purchase and ongoing operations of its new station. The New York Times reports: "Talk of the sale also sent shivers through cultural institutions that rely heavily on WQXR, like the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School. . . .[N]ew ownership and a transition to public radio raises its own concerns for those cultural institutions, creating a competitor for the dwindling pool of charitable dollars for the arts, and threatening the cozy relationship they have had with a station that gives them ample exposure and greatly broadens their reach." Meanwhile, classical pianist Emanuel Ax, who chairs WNYC's new capital campaign, had this to say: “Seven years ago, I was one of the voices calling for WNYC to preserve as much classical music as possible on its air. Today, I am happy to stand with WNYC as it carries off the sonic equivalent of saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecker’s ball by preserving WQXR as our sole all-classical music station. I know that all of my colleagues will rejoice in this wonderful and meaningful use of the airwaves, and I urge all of New York to embrace and support WNYC’s leap of faith.”

Atop Emmy news and doc nominations list: PBS with 41

PBS dominated the News & Documentary Emmy Award nominations (PDF) announced today, with 41 nods. Closest competitors are CBS with 23, and 13 each for ABC and HBO/Cinemax. POV scored 10 nominations; Frontline, seven; and Nova, four. One strong category: Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story/Long Form, with PBS taking four of five spots. Winners will be announced Sept. 21 in New York City.

FCC pondering broadcast journalism

Outgoing acting FCC chair Michael Copps, in an interview with Multicast News, reveals the commission is working on a notice of inquiry on the future of broadcast journalism. A broad discussion on the state of journalism in America "is something to take a little while. You are going to need to assemble the best brains, and people from different sectors of the communications world and let them come and reason together and see if they can help us chart a path to a media future," Copps said.

Radio Bilingue to develop new pubmedia service for Los Angeles

CPB has awarded a $2 million grant to Radio Bilingue to design and develop a multiplatform English language program service for young Latinos in Los Angeles. Radio Bilingue, which produces and distributes Spanish-language news and cultural programming airing on stations in the U.S. and Mexico, will take several months to develop programming before launching the new service in 2010. "Los Angeles sits at the juncture of diversity and new media and this is an opportunity to create a national model for public media innovation," said CPB President Patricia Harrison in a news release. "This service, developed by Radio Bilingue, will serve and represent a new community of listeners through fresh and innovative content." No word yet on a broadcast outlet: CPB's announcement highlights the search for a chief content officer and research firm to test and design programming and marketing concepts for the venture. Planning of the service began with CPB's 2005 request for proposals for a project examining strategies to expand pubradio listenership among Los Angeles Latinos. [Link to Current's earlier coverage here.]