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Radio News: Classical, Jazz, and Doug

WRCJ 90.9 Detroit to make its move -- scroll down page to April 16, 2005. WRCJ used to be WDTR, the Detroit Public Schools radio station. WRCG is still licensed to the Detroit Public Schools, but it will be operated by the same outfit that runs public TV channel 56 (WTVS). The changeover to classical/jazz happens July 1 and will also take the station to 24 hour a day, unlike now. WDTR had been a mix of educational and community outreach programming for decades, then became mostly traditional R&B while they were in a transition period that looks to end soon, finally.

Scroll a little further down the Michiguide news page to April 1, 2005 for "Doug kicks DRQ to the curb". WDRQ, 93.1 FM, was a top-40 station until April, when they switched to a somewhat eclectic pop-rock format, kind of like an iPod on shuffle. In other U.S. and Canadian cities, stations like this have been called Jack FM and Bob FM. I've heard a few surprises. Wednesday I heard The Church followed by The Righteous Brothers followed by Bob Seger. Other articles on this are "WDRQ goes to an iPod shufflelike format" and "Radio station abruptly fires staff, changes music format."

Doug-FM now competes with, oh, about half the stations in the market in terms of broadcasting rockish-style pop from the 60s through 90s. Yes, friends, Detroit is in a rut radio-wise. On the other hand, we hadn't had a domestic classical or jazz outlet in years (not counting CBC Radio 2 just across the river, that is). So maybe some progress is bsing made.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
altivo
May. 20th, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
Jeez, you can tell how long since I've been in Detroit. Wasn't WDET-FM a classical/NPR outlet? What happened to them? And what about WUOM out of Ann Arbor? Gone as well?

I know you can receive WKAR from East Lansing on a good radio with an antenna, but it really isn't the Detroit metro market.
songdogmi
May. 20th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
WDET does triple-A now (Adult Album Alternative, I think): A whole lot of stuff that sounds like pop-rockish music but doesn't have enough marketing push behind it to get on pop radio. They now run very few NPR programs. Don't get me started about WDET; I haven't listened to more than 60 seconds of it since August 2004 when they booted the folk and bluegrass shows with no warning. They do have about five hours of classical programming a week, and I think they still run jazz on weekday evenings.

WUOM went to a all news/talk format a few years ago. They carry a lot of the popular NPR and APR programs. If ya want "Prairie Home Companion" here, it's on WUOM.

WKAR is still classical. I have them on a pre-set now, even though it's fuzzy at best where I live.

It's almost as if WDET, WUOM, WKAR and now RCJ divvied up the classical market, like Louisville's Public Radio Partnership (PRP) did in the late 1990s with the three public stations down there. Only thing is, the four stations here have no formal ties to each other; in Louisville the PRP controls all three stations.

We had a commercial classical station, WQRS, that suddenly switched to rock in 1997. That caused a furor, though apparently not a big enough furor to cause a new classical station to spring up in its wake. Some of the old WQRS staff created an Internet station on Live365.com that does quite well, considering it's classical and an Internet station.
altivo
May. 20th, 2005 06:50 pm (UTC)
Chicago fared similarly. There used to be three commercial classical stations and an NPR affiliate. Only one classical station remains. The NPR affiliate isn't very good. They carry the morning and evening news, PHC, and very little else. The rest is jazz. They complain that NPR programming is too expensive for them.

Having moved to a location 30 miles from Rockford a few years ago, I'm much happier with the radio options. Northern Illinois University actually has two stations, both non-commercial. One is all classical. The other is NPR and carries almost everything I want (except, alas, Thistle and Shamrock.)
altivo
May. 20th, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, I meant to mention, WKAR-FM has an internet stream too. I listen to it occasionally here at work. Probably not much good if your connection is only dialup, but anything much faster than that should yield pretty decent quality sound.
songdogmi
May. 20th, 2005 07:26 pm (UTC)
At home I only have dial-up, and I've heard that at work the firewall is now set to block streaming content from the outside (I haven't tried it myself lately). WKAR is the closest "Thistle and Shamrock" outlet, but they play it at a time when I'm usually in a car as far away from East Lansing as I get in a normal week, so I never really get to hear it.

Rural Michigan public radio outlets are a lot better than in the big city, I think. Everything north of Saginaw is covered by WCMU-FM (or one of its repeaters), and they have a good selection of the NPR programs and music too - classical during the week, I think, and folk on weekend nights. I have no hope of getting them in metro Detroit, but I've enjoyed a few drives from up north with WCMU.
altivo
May. 20th, 2005 07:33 pm (UTC)
The only time I ever subscribed to cable TV (when I lived in East Lansing) it was largely because it came with about 40 FM radio stations. The thing was, in East Lansing I had WKAR and didn't need the others.

Aside from cable, one way to pull in very good reception on distant FM stations (up to about 120 miles away) is with a rooftop antenna. They are available in both omnidirectional format or to look like television antennas that you can use a rotator with. The omnidirectional antenna is a double loop bowed into the shape of a letter S. They used to be common back in the 50s when FM stations were few and far between. Now you rarely see one. But last time I checked, the antennas were still available. Special order at Radio Shack, for instance.
songdogmi
May. 20th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)
I've sometimes wondered if I could use my existing rooftop TV antenna with FM radio, since the FM frequency band is in between the two VHF TV bands. It even has a rotator, although I unplugged it when I discovered the power cord looked like it had been chewed on by something small and rodent-like. :)

Maybe I should find out if the antenna works, before I have ittaken down when I get the roof replaced. But maybe all that would happen is, I'd get the 30-some local radio stations in a lot louder.
altivo
May. 20th, 2005 08:16 pm (UTC)
Best way to find out is to try it. Most directional tv antennas are very band specific, so using it for fm is a compromise at best. However, if the mast and rotator are still in functioning condition, then putting a steerable fm antenna up there would be easy and not too expensive. Somewhere in the range of $100 to $200, I'd expect. Reception and propagation for fm radio signals is just like television, so directional antennas give a lot of gain and improved quality when they are pointed right at the desired target.
ferndalealex
May. 20th, 2005 10:35 pm (UTC)
I just discovered CBC...because I need to take a newsbreak (the mental state is drifting into bad tetrritory). It's great! The music on WDET was always mediocre at best for me.

CBC is almost relaxing for the drive into work!
songdogmi
May. 20th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC)
I like the morning guy, Tom Allen, a lot. I never get out of the house early enough to hear him anymore, though, so I hear the following host, Shelley Soames, who plays a nationwide classical request show. The requests come in by e-mail and regular mail and they're pretty wide-ranging.
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