Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Gray Lady Sells WQXR

The New York Times announced today that it is selling WQXR, New York City's sole remaining radio station devoted to classical music.

I have seen surprisingly little speculation that the Times would make such a move. To me, at least, the sale was not unexpected, given the fact that the company is losing money hand over fist and will likely end up in bankruptcy within the next 18 to 24 months. The sale price of $45 million is chump change, but I guess every little bit helps while the Sulzberger family continues to live in a fantasy land in which Pinch Sulzberger can revive the brand before it swirls down the toilet.

Typically for the Times, the announcement appears to be laden with dishonest half truths and worse. Although the Times emphasizes that the deal "preserves WQXR as the only station devoted solely to classical music in New York City," the fact is that once the sale closes no contract will, as a practical matter, prevent the new owners from eventually doing whatever they want with the station. In addition, the new WQXR will have a signal one-tenth the strength of the present one, in other words, pathetic, no matter what the Times tells you.

I greet the news with mixed emotions. As a lover of classical music, I will regret the loss. As pathetic as WQXR usually is, it has been the only game in town, and I listen to it regularly in the car. I also feel bad for the announcers, who will sooner or later be swept aside. But to the extent the move represents one more revolution down the toilet and into the sewer, I rejoice. The Times has become pathetic and repulsive, and I will dance on its grave when it dies.

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