Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Sometimes when a couple of bad things happen and they both effect the same thing, it feels like the sky is falling. Maybe the sky isn't falling, but things don't seem to be going very well in the broadcasting arena, at least not for independent musicians, artists, and broadcasters in the Chicagao area. After the Digital Millenium Copyright Act / CARP ruling came down from the library of congress just recently, it seems like things are getting worse, and not in webcasting either, but in regular old college radio.

88.7 FM WLUW Chicago, Loyola Radio will cease to exist as we know it as of August 30th!

This is not final but here's what I know, based on first hand information I've gotten from connections to the station (it's best that I don't name sources) ;

The Dean at Loyola has asked/begged WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio to go into WLUW and run the place, some sort of management contract as I understand it. It may be financial reasons or something else entirely, but I can't really say with any authority. The station is not for sale (Loyola realizes how valuble the FCC licence is) I'm guessing that this means Loyola will pay WBEZ to run the station. I could be wrong on this detail, as it was not made clear to me in my conversation or I didn't fully understand.

But as I understand the school as told WLUW staff that their jobs are only gauranteed till August 30th. After that they will be under the management of WBEZ and will either serve in another capacity (highly unlikely) or be let go (most likely). This despite that the station is a source of revenue to the school, being that they charge students to take classes and the station sees none of that money. It also held a fundraiser recently and I contributed, being that I enjoy a lot of WLUW's programming and appreciate the fact that they are a huge supporter of local and independent music, quite possiby the best out of the other radio stations in Chicago, including the one I do a show on (WZRD).

It should be known however that it is NOT TOO LATE! But if you don't do anything WLUW will surely be something else, be it local affairs, generic adult alternative (like a Philadelphia NPR station that plays Elton John, Ryan Adams, Sheryl Crow), classical or that shitty verison of "smooth jazz" the WBEZ plays now after 8pm weekdays. Chances are Loyola higher ups will not listen to you BUT if you are a NPR contributer (like myself) or even a listener you should immediately contact WBEZ to communicate your displeasure in their dealings with Loyola. Click the following for the email address for WBEZ -
WBEZ email address - questions@wbez.org

If you don't do something or at least speak up, WLUW will go under and Chicago will have one less independent voice on the radio. Here's a sample of my rather longwinded letter;

To Whom it may concern,

I have been an avid listener of NPR for the past couple of years. I enjoy and appreciate the quality of in-depth news reporting and
storytelling that appears on WBEZ, a level of commitment that is not available on commercial radio or TV. I am also very proud that
I was able to contribute financially to WBEZ recently in a pledge drive held late in 2001. I also fully intended to keep giving, or I had until very recently.

I have never felt compelled to communicate with you some of the things I don't like about WBEZ - Your music selection is bland at best. I am an avid music listener of all sorts, and probably listen to indie rock and experimental music more than anything else, but I do listen to a fair amount of jazz as well. I rarely tune in to 91.5 after 8pm because I find much of what you play during that time slot to be too close to the "smooth" jazz variety that is found on other commercial stations.

And to be perfectly honest with you none of this bothered me all that much until very recently. I can understand that it may be difficult for WBEZ to take to many chances with experimental music, or even more raucous jazz and indie rock. I just accepted this as fact, thinking that my musical listening tastes were outside the demographic of the typical NPR listener, and went elsewhere. This is why I am a dedicated listener of college radio as well. I listen to WNUR 89.3, WZRD 88.3 and WLUW 88.7 a lot, and have DJ'd as well. I also contributed to WLUW in their most recent pledge drive.

The only reason I feel compelled to write you is because of the recent events at WLUW. It has come to my attention that Loyola University has contacted WBEZ to consider some type of management deal, something that will most certainly change the very fabric of the station. I'll keep it simple - if WBEZ takes over at WLUW I DONT THINK I CAN CONTINUE TO CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY to WBEZ or WLUW. I don't appreciate your tunnel vision in respect to strictly playing and supporting local artists like Kurt Elling and those who sound like him. It is WBEZ's decision board of directors that must feel those artists are safe enough not to offend the average NPR listener.

The prospect however of WBEZ contributing to the death of another free from media outlet that plays more than one style of music is infuriating. I have no idea what your direction for WLUW is; whatever it is I can only see it as sacrificing the spontaneity, flexibility, freedom and variety WLUW currently exhibits in the name of "professionality"; inflexible playlists, an unsupportive staff towards experimental music, generic music not too offensive to the "average" listener. I heard "In The Media"'s show on the current payola mess and the NPR station in Philadelphia formatted as "adult alternative", playing Elton John and Sheryl Crow - aren't there enough stations clogging the airwaves with that music that it would be a waste of an invaluable resource for a college station to play that stuff? There aren't enough outlets now for music that doesn't fit a narrow definition (since the DMCA/CARP ruling and the inevitable demise of Web radio) how can a responsible and respectful institution like WBEZ be contributing to this current plight?

I know I am not alone in this sentiment; many of my friends and associates listen to both NPR and college radio, and I will be informing them of the situation, urging them to make their feelings known. (This would be you!!!! Please say something to WBEZ!)

I was planning on contributing again for your on line pledge drive until this. You at the very least owe an explanation to WLUW listeners and the public on what you plan to do. Please see to it that you show this to the board of directors at WBEZ before you decide to enter this deal with Loyola.

Feel free to copy as much of this letter as you want - it wouldn't hurt for you to reference your own contribution to WBEZ if you made one.


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