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Classical Notes: December 14, 2006 Archive

Are you still listening?

Posted at 4:17 PM on December 14, 2006 by Don Lee

In a post on Tuesday, I mentioned that several of Dana Gioia's pet projects at the National Endowment for the Arts relate to literature. Some recent e-mail buzz among colleagues here and elsewhere reminded me that the NEA has been paying at least a little attention to classical music.

The buzz has to do with the sale of Washington, DC's commercial classical station, WGMS. If the sale goes through, our nation's capital will no longer have a classical radio outlet. Public station WETA dropped classical two years ago and is facing new pressure to reverse the move.

The study, published in September, looks at classical radio listening trends which, obviously, are affected when major market stations abandon that format. Driving the study was the finding in some 2002 research that "most classical music listeners access the art primarily through radio, suggesting that the medium is critical to long-term audience."

The NEA survey reports a 30 percent decline in the number of U.S. commercial classical stations from 1998-2005. It also says that, "Between 1990 and 2005, at least 6 of the country’s top 30 radio markets (20%) lost a [public] classical station to news/talk." Nonetheless, it says, classical listening on public radio has not changed dramatically in the past several years. Am I supposed to worry, or not?