Why Public Broadcasting Matters

Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 12:18 PM

People often ask me how I got involved in public broadcasting. "It was an accident," I tell them. "A glorious accident."

I didn't really spend a lot of time watching television or listening to the radio 30 years ago. I was busy working on theater productions and learning how to sing. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when the head of the public television station in Oklahoma offered me a job!

It sounded like an interesting opportunity, so I started working part time in on-air fundraising. I spent a lot of time standing in front of a cardboard cutout of Big Bird talking about the importance of supporting Sesame Street. I was also on during the daily broadcasts of The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.

Over time, I was introduced to the great pioneers in public broadcasting like Louis Rukeyser – the first person to host a program about Wall Street. There was America’s most trusted name in home improvement -- Bob Vila -- and This Old House.  And, Masterpiece Theater brought us great classics like I, Claudius.

And, there was classical music, too. Big time. Do you remember the annual Gala of Stars? Yes, in those days it was classical music that brought the PBS spring fundraising drive to a close with an impressive list of artists gathered in support of the cause (see video below). 

We loved these programs and they were naturals in helping us make the case for what was then the "fourth network" -- PBS. 

The folks I worked with at the local public television station back in those days were my kinds of folks – interesting, fun, curious about the world around them and appreciative of the value of a good education. So, when I moved to New York in 1985, it’s no wonder that I found myself - once again – working in public broadcasting. Only this time, I was working with the people who actually created the programming. At the flagship station. Channel 13. And, boy, was that interesting!

Public broadcasting legends Robert MacNeil and Bill Moyers both worked with us in the building at the time. And, for several years, I worked side by side with Jac Venza -- the creator and Executive Producer of Great Performances, the award winning series of music, dance and drama programs. I was with Jac at Tanglewood for Leonard Bernstein’s 70th birthday celebration. Incredible. I will never forget seeing Mstislav Rostropovich rehearse. And, Christa Ludwig – what a riot! She sang music from Candide with an audio technician desperately trying to keep her mic in place. Needless to say, she did a fabulous job of working the guy into the act!

Back at the station - somewhere along the way - I also found myself in an office right next door to Charlie Rose who was busy getting his talk show up and running. He came in every day, put his briefcase on his empty desk, and started making telephone calls. ‘This is Charlie Rose. Would you like to come on my show tonight?’ he would ask. Amazing. He eventually got a staff, but he was making those calls in the beginning.

When I became a classical music radio announcer on WQXR in 1993, it was a pretty easy transition for me. First and foremost, it was all about music. What could be better? In addition, the station seemed a lot like a public broadcasting station even though it was actually a commercial operation owned by the New York Times. In fact, it was a commercial station for over seventy years. Then, a year and a half ago, WQXR was sold by the Times to the public radio station WNYC, and WQXR officially became a member of the public broadcasting system. 

Every one of the people I have ever worked with in public broadcasting – both on-air and off - knows what it means to commit his or her product to a powerful mission of using high quality educational and cultural programming to address the needs of the underserved. Without this important alternative, the airwaves would be filled with nothing but stuff that sells commercials. I can understand the appeal of the Super Bowl and programs like Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor. But what if these kinds of programs were the only choices we had?

WQXR and public broadcasting are a natural fit because even though WQXR was a commercial station for many years, it has always been mission driven. Talk about serving the underserved! Last time I checked, we are the only New York radio station playing classical music 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you watched the most recent Grammy Awards ceremony, you know that there is a reason why classical music earns no airtime on the show. And don’t try to tell me that it’s because Lady Gaga is more talented than Renee Fleming! I think not.

Those of us who love and value classical music are in the minority. It’s a fact. We’ll always be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to protecting our interests. But the remarkable thing about public broadcasting is that even though we struggle to maintain our existence, when it comes to programming that is truly worthy of your time and attention, we’re still by far and away the best thing available on the airwaves today. 

It was a glorious accident that brought me to public broadcasting. And there is absolutely no arguing the fact that public broadcasting has made me a more interesting and, yes, a better person. In so many ways. 

If you believe in public broadcasting, too, I’d love to know why. And, thanks.

Below: Placido Domingo performs during a PBS Fundraiser in 1981:


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Comments [61]

Nathan Baer from NYC

a little off topic...but...!
LOCOMOTIVE - Short Film about NYC Messenger/Opera Singer to air on PBS..? If it gets enough votes!


The email title kinda says it all. But, my name's Nathan Baer and I moved to NYC about five years ago. A few months after moving here, I was still having a rough time 'making' it in this city. The two great things were: i was singing (because I moved here to make it as an opera singer) AND i was a bicycle messenger (something i had always wanted to do).
So, this short film is about getting over a hurdle...to make peace with this city and make my mark.

It's been short listed by PBS to air on their Saturday programming if it gets enough votes.
Voting ends 5pm EST Wednesday.
many thanks,

Sep. 27 2011 10:43 PM
Margaret from 212 7445793

Congratulations on your marriage. I know you from an exercise class and admire your work. We never got for coffee.
I am a retired nurse. If your station could use my vollunteer services, I would be glad to help
Call me

Jul. 04 2011 06:08 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

We need WQXR because the culture has been so degraded. PBS occasionally presents great shows when they are not mired in political agendas. I grew up listening to radio. We would listen to the Italian radio station which played great music and also presented classic dramas. Vincent Gardenia had a Sunday morning comedy show. I also would listen to the NBC Symphony, Texaco opera broadcasts, WQXR and other great radio shows such as Jack Benny, etc. There was the sense that something better should be in the popular culture. Nowadays, most of what we get is garbage. There is no shame. I cannot believe that electricity is being wasted on Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, etc. What a waste of time. Thank God for QXR.

Apr. 11 2011 02:29 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from BOONTON, NJ

Not only does public broadcasting,including WQXR and WNYC, need support because of the widespread financial and political ramifications, but almost every endeavor to support the common welfare is aggressively attacked by the "well-situated." Tragedies, of nature, interpersonal relations, rampart unreasonable hatred within groups and even families, corruption unheard of previously, conscience-lacking politicians, lobbyists running the show for the Koch brothers et al, frustrated peoples in the Mideast, and angry people sensing that the powers that be are discriminating against them, and politicians inaccurately publicly disgracing themselves by their total lack of the common knowledge of history, geography and social relationships. In so many areas, those in command are inadequate, unconcerned, unequal to their responsibilities. What a sad, sad mad and maddening world, where even nuclear scientists are not honest with their concerns for safety and allow such a horrific tragedy as the tsunami and flooding, to be further aggravated by rightful concern over radiation from the 50 nuclear plants' meltdowns.

Mar. 13 2011 12:45 PM

I meant to say if I hadn't known of his show and promotion of performances on WQXR I might have found the spots in poor taste.

Mar. 11 2011 12:37 PM

Although currently unemployed, I made a donation. After I watch the morning news and begin my job hunt, I tune into WQXR to help keep me upbeat. I admit I do sometimes get distracted when something I truly love plays on the radio, however a small diversion is sometimes helpful.

As to the Alec Baldwin fund raising spots - if I had not heard him promoting performances and seen him on his current TV show, I did find myself giggling at his spots. They did not sway me to donate or not, but I did not find them offensive.

Mar. 11 2011 12:24 PM
Neil Schnall

I agree with Marge (not only because I'm also from NJ), and I would urge anyone who's on the fence or simply hasn't done so yet to make a donation, however small or large. When arts institutions (and a publicly-supported radio station that specializes in classical music must be counted as one) are under scrutiny and threatened with funding curtailment by the benighted, it is especially important that it be demonstrable that there is a broad base of popular support for its endeavors.

Frequent perusers of these pages may have noticed that I have often been critical of various aspects of this stations operations, for one reason or another. Let me be clear that even my most scathing comments are meant with the intention of improving things, not just for myself but for all of us. I think WQXR can be an even better station than it is.

But I have been listening to WQXR since the early-to-mid 1960s (does anyone remember Pru Devon?) and I think it's shameful for our culture that classical music on the radio is enisled to this sole outpost at the northern end of the dial (dial?! - oh I AM dating myself, am I not!). But one oasis is better than none.

The commercial model seems to have left us in the lurch. Let there be wide and generous public support for this endeavor! Pony up - make a pledge!

Mar. 08 2011 03:03 PM
Marge from NJ

What would I do without WQXR in my life? I tune in before I start my coffee brewer and listen to it whenever I am in my car. It is my companion through my work day and then again at home. What will happen if the federal funding goes away completely? I give what I can, but will listener donations be enough?

Those whose comments were negative about Alec Baldwin's spots and other humor . . . lighten up. It gets your attention, doesn't it? Pledge whether you like the spots or not because it's the music that counts!

And now, especially now, public radio (and TV) are so important as a supplement to the watered-down education system. Support public radio and TV !!! Please.

Mar. 08 2011 01:53 PM
Neil Schnall

I did not actually say Baldwin's spots were funny, only that they are intended as humorous, which is different. I understand that he is actually parodying various roles he has played in films (and by extension parodying himself), except perhaps for the one wherein he identifies himself and urges "not to give" and "the number NOT to call is..." which is also clearly meant in an ironic way.

Baldwin does an exceptionally fine job, IMO, announcing the NY Philharmonic broadcasts, a labor of love for him. I do not know whether he has been compensated for making these spots, but it is clear that, by lending his name and voice, he is personally promoting support for WQXR.

Each to his/her own taste, of course, but I think he deserves credit for this. I also think it would be mean-spirited of anyone to base their decision about providing support upon their dislike of these spots.

Mar. 07 2011 02:51 PM
Michael Meltzer

For Alec Baldwin, I find myself turning off the radio on WQXR for the first time since Debussy:Clair de Lune for two guitars.
By the way, for his benefit, when he does the "coffee is for pledgers" and various other spots he's using his voice in a harmful way. If he doesn't get a good voice teacher and clean it up, he's going to wind up croaking like a frog long before he'll want to retire.

Mar. 06 2011 01:12 PM

Every time I hear the Alec Baldwin spot (is there more than one?), I get angry all over again. "Put the coffee down; coffee is for pledgers only. . . . Public radio is for pledgers only. . . . hit the bricks . . ."

Mr. Schnall - what's funny about these cracks? Anyway, humor can be in bad taste. I can see the comedy show: The audience doesn't laugh but instead boos and hisses. Managament stops the show, turns on the lights and lectures the audience, "This is comedy. You have to laugh." The show resumes and now the audience, having been chastised, laughs. Sure.

WQXR, as a serious classical music station, is the last of the New York nonprofit stations for which this spot might be appropriate. WBGO? WKCR? WFUV? WBAI? (Well, maybe WBAI). You have to go to commercial stations which have shock jocks to find such a station.

Midge - please let management know that some bloggers are offended by Alec Baldwin's spots.

Mar. 06 2011 12:25 PM

What happened? I was just listening to WQXR, the New World Symphony, and right in the middle of the movement the host butted it and asked for donations.

It would be bad enough to stick in a commercial between movements, but right in the middle of the action the host hit the pause button, gave his spiel, and then hit play again.

That's a terrible innovation. Don't make that a regular practice, or I won't donate any more.

Mar. 06 2011 12:33 AM
KRB from Boston

The pledge spot I find particularly offensive is what I assume is to be an amusing "Jewish mother" nagging joke about pledging. I am tired of this stereotype and wish WQXR did not stoop to it. I also don't like the announcers' references to the face cream ads that ran during the last days of the commercial station. I found them annoying as well, but someone went out of his or her way to help keep WQXR alive. It would be a lot more helpful if management would let listeners know what their plans are if Congress cuts off funding for public broadcasting.

Mar. 05 2011 08:40 PM
Michael Meltzer

Humor is a treacherous sales tool. I found it very useful in selling Baldwin home organs in the Queens Center mall, but not very useful selling Steinway pianos in Manhattan.
I'll never forget the uproarious Dom de Luise commercial, sitting at a table about to eat his pizza, and as the camera zoomed out, you saw the pizza was 5 feet in diameter. I realized, after I stopped laughing, that I didn't remember what the product was. All I remembered was Dom de Luise.
If the humor is diversionary, it's worse than useless.

Mar. 04 2011 05:50 PM
Neil Schnall

The fact that Alec Baldwin's spots are meant as "humor" seems to completely elude some people. Let's not forget that he's a star of a hit comedy TV show.

If that's too much to countenance, well... harrrumph!

Mar. 04 2011 04:39 PM

Alec Baldwin's pushy, "Always Be Pledging" clip has pushed me from the "maybe" column to the "NO" column.

During fundraising drives, the station has to walk the very-wide line between asking gently and being pushy. Everybody at WQXR knows that. This clip is way over that line and is pushy. So it is up to management to acknowledge this breach, apologize and pull the clips.

BTW, Baldwin can afford to donate much, much more than I ever could.


Mar. 04 2011 02:18 PM
Sidney Goldman from Baldwin, New York 11510

This Blog has motivated about the largest responses made by WQXR listeners. Obviously Midge's article is so well put about the topic (and deserves even more wider circulation, maybe to its listeners/members using the regular mail system).

The press should also support the fight to preserve public broadcasting (PBS) and NPR with articles so that the public will be better informed of what politics (Republicans) are trying to do.

Mar. 04 2011 01:00 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

Whether or not you like Baldwin's approach we need to realize that it can and will appeal to someone. In the same way that all of us have our musical favorites and not so favorites (I hate clarinet concerti).

In this vast world of marketing techniques, there's a shill for every taste.

Mar. 04 2011 09:22 AM
Michael Meltzer

RE: Alec Baldwin again -
A simple principle of editing: when a wording, a usage, a point of grammar or a manner of delivery draws attention to itself rather than the substance of its message, it's wrong, even when it's "right."

Mar. 03 2011 08:28 PM

With regard to comments on the Alec Baldwin spots -- I think these are intended as a takeoff on his role in "Glengarry Glen Ross." Whether they're effective or not is another subject.

Mar. 03 2011 08:07 PM
Allison from Staten Island

I started listening to WQXR when Lloyd Moss was a host. I loved turning on the radio and hearing, not only the glorious music, but the beautful voices of the hosts. When I'm sad- I know I'll hear music that makes my spirit soar and when I'm anxious-- WQXR becomes my deep breath. I enjoy pledge time because I can hear more of those melodious hosts' voices. I get to know you better. I'll also add that I love Alec Balwin's spots. He's another host with a golden voice and the spots just plain make me laugh. What could be wrong with that? Love you, Midge.

Mar. 03 2011 07:48 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from BOONTON, NJ

MIDGE, you mentioned Louis Rukeyser, whose program on Channel 13 "Wall Street Week" was an enormous success. I had my own program "Operatic Spotlight" on WNYC in 1958, following the folksinger Oscar Brand's program. He, amazingly, continues to this day to sing and evangelize for the folk music that is so cherishable, musically and text-wise. Herman Neumann was the station head.
We need NOW to counteract the commercial interests who disdain classical music and all the arts, and, science, too, to fully comprehend their intentions !!

Mar. 03 2011 12:53 PM
Susan Yates from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Thanks, Neil Schnall, for enlightening me. But ... an hour-long infomercial on WQXR? How sad when the music gets in the way of the promotion! Seems like a case of the cart before the horse ...and how the mighty have fallen!

Mar. 03 2011 10:12 AM
Neil Schnall

Ms. Yates,
I'm afraid it's the other way around. WQXR is promoting their compilation CDs as premia in soliciting monetary contributions. The program you heard was an hour-long infomercial for that express purpose. As such, it was the music that was interrupting the announcing.

Mar. 03 2011 12:40 AM
Susan Yates from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

It's fund-raising time again, and the team is certainly giving it your all. It seems this time as if the announcements are grouped into shorter segments than in the past ... for which I am grateful. However, last evening while I was preparing dinner and listening to a lovely recording of the Rodrigo guitar concerto, it suddenly stopped in the MIDDLE so that the announcer could wax poetic about the charms of listening to quiet music quietly! After a while, he ceased and the Rodrigo continued on. I was stunned! Interrupting music to tell me it's lovely and ask for funds to continue broadcasting! I thought it was a one-time fluke, but a mere 13 minutes later the same thing happened with the Faure pavanne, then 3 minutes later with Rachmaninoff where the music continued under the announcement, reducing Rachmaninoff to underscoring! The only thing worse than constant breaks to remind us of our obligation is actually INTERRUPTING a piece of music to talk. Please reconsider this particular practice.

Mar. 02 2011 05:30 PM
Michael Meltzer

Regarding the Alec Baldwin plugs:
In recent years, a style of advertising has emerged on Madison Avenue which is cutesy, snide and sprinkled with cheap jokes, ostensibly to help sell things.
There is a growing perception among advertising clients that the new style sells nothing, and that it is written by advertising people for the amusement and titillation of other advertising people, who like to meet annually and give each other awards, just like Hollywoood.
Perhaps Mr. Baldwin should look for a more elegant and effective model to emulate, one more consistent with the image of a classical music radio station.

Mar. 02 2011 04:42 PM

Dear Sousaboy -

Your comments are always appreciated.

Thank you!


Mar. 02 2011 03:43 PM

@MIDGE W. --- Hey...what about MY kind words love? Oh well.....( I bet she thinks I'm just an endless WOMANIZER)I knew I should have sent her that Sousa record for Christmas....

Mar. 02 2011 03:22 PM
Granger from Ithaca

Thank you internet. I've been listening to WQXR regularly now for several months and have been loving it again after leaving the city in my twenties. It has helped me to frequent the Met more often too. Now more than ever public radio and television needs our money. The creativity and fun of the current fund drive sucked me in and I had to pledge today. And thank you WQXR for hanging on after all these years.

Mar. 02 2011 02:57 PM

Hi, Benita -

Thanks for taking the time to write. And thank you for your kind words.

I'm sorry the Alec Baldwin spots don't sit well with you. I think he's just trying a different angle in an effort to help 'the cause'. But, I'll pass your comments along, for sure.

We do play Red Priest from time to time. I like them, too. Thanks for the suggestion!

All best -


Mar. 02 2011 02:36 PM
Benita Ober from Cary, NC

Thank you for who you are. I grew up (now 69) with WQXR (though not appreciating it as a little girl). As I learned to enjoy classical music it has become a part of my heart and soul. You were a delight to watch on Channel 13. I am offended by Alec Baldwin's approach to your fund raising. This is a classy station and his language has no place here. I do understand the need to reach out to your listeners for their support, but his way to me is crass.
I was wondering if you've listened to or heard of a group called "Red Priest". I saw them in concert two weeks ago in Charlotte and they were amazing and would be a nice added addition to WQXR. Thank you again and continue delighting myself and your audience. Benita

Mar. 02 2011 09:54 AM
Bill D from nj

The attack on public broadcasting has very little to do with tightening the budget, the amount they spend on public broadcasting in federal budget terms is a joke (something like 150 million; in the government, things don't get seen until they reach a billion). We spend more money then that subsidizing pig festivals and county fairs, or telling people why high fructose corn syrup is a good thing.

The reality is that political forces, most specifically the hard right wing and conservative base, hate public broadcasting, pure and simple. There are several reasons for this, but if you look it isn't hard to see:

1)Public broadcasting tends to support culture and the arts, which the hard right and their hoi polloi supporters see as 'elitist' or 'weird'. For all the so called diversity on the cable spectrum (assuming people can afford cable), how much supports true education?

2)Public broadcasting is not controlled by corporations and corporate interests. Commercial tv channels are run by huge corporate interests and their programming shows that interest, they put out things to please advertisers and have their point of view sold as 'the American Way'.

3)PBS airs things no commercial channel is willing to do. During the runup to the Iraq war, commercial news stations did very little to question what was going on, only on NPR did you hear anything of dissent....which obviously doesn't sit well with the hard right.

4)PBS has as one of its prime goals education, programs like Sesame Street, programs like Nova were designed to educate and inform and challenge people's ideas. The argument that thanks to narrowcasting this is no longer needed is hogwash, because look at the History Channel, Science, Discovery and the like, and what you see isn't education, it is infotainment. Thus you see sensationalized programs on "Was Jesus an Alien" , "The Evil influence of the Masons" and so forth, Discovery running programs like "American Chopper" (which I like, don't get me wrong) and so forth. Children's programming on the commercial channels all seems to promote toys and videogames, not exactly educational.

The reason they hate PBS is that it attempts to get people to think, it attempts to give views not seen elsewhere, and the hard right doesn't want that. Contrast PBS questioning things like Creationism taught as science or supply side economics to the belief of those who rely on Fox News, where large majority of their viewers cling to things as 'truth' that have been long disproven.

It is why we have to fight for PBS, because it very much still is if they won't do it,who will? TV, despite all the narrowcasting, is still a wasteland, only with hundreds of channels.

Mar. 02 2011 09:36 AM
Kathryn Bloom from Boston

I am willing to help to financially support WQXR, but I am cautious about sending a donation about this time. What will happen to the station of the Senate votes to discontinue funding for public broadcasting? Will the station shut down? Instead of simply letting your listeners know this danger exists, I think you should provide information about what your ongoing plans are. I have contacted my representatives asking for continued funding for public broadcasting solely because of WQXR, which I listen to via the internet. When I consider the deterioration of the quality of public television since the 1970s and 1980s, I wonder about the necessity of continued support for such mediocrity. Here is Boston, we're into another season of endless reruns of "Are You Being Served?" and "Keeping Up Appearances." That funding could be better spent elsewhere.

Mar. 02 2011 07:24 AM
Michael Meltzer

I will be making what WQXR could only call a "token" contribution, retirement does not permit any largesse. It is not to be taken as approval of anything, I consider it the obligatory price of a Curmudgeon License.
I have many concerns, but two that are huge. The first is the status of the famous WQXR archive of recordings, as I have outlined in my earlier post at this site.
The second has to do with education. In the 1970's, the State and City decimated the budget for music education. I was in the music business and asked, "Where do they expect future audiences to come from?" Here we are, two generations later. Audiences have shrunk terribly, you look around in a concert and gaze on a sea of gray, the three NYC classical radio stations are now one.
Alec Baldwin in one of his irritating fund-raising speeches uses the word, "mission," but none is delineated. If it were, the last year's WQXR activity tells us that it would say nothing about the education of children.
It is deeply disappointing, given the ready avenue of the internet, that WQXR has not found any interest in delivering to the public schools any educational music programming. Midori, and a few of her less famous colleagues who give freely of their time and visit the schools with their music, cannot do it all.
I would venture to say that if WQXR had such an interest, both foundation and private checkbooks would show a heightened interest in your survival. You would certainly have a higher soap-box from which to solicit.
If this appears to be a challenge, it is!

Mar. 02 2011 02:20 AM
Jonathan A. Weiss

I would donate to WQXR but I find the frequent requests so annoying that I will not do so.

Mar. 01 2011 07:46 PM
Ruben Tomasov from Brooklyn

I want to make clear from the start that I do not agree with cutting funding for anything public, broadcasting included, of course.
The second thing I want to make clear is, I have no other source for classical music on the radio. Evidently, there are other optional sources and listen to classical music, particularly now in the digital era, but it is not the same; it is not as direct as listening to the radio, not counting the fact that one must have a computer and a subscription to a server.
But, everything considered, I must also express my disappointment with WQXR's programming policies: I miss Margaret Mercer's work as programming director in the old WQXR.
And my reasons are simple: the current programming policy at WQXR seems too haphazard; there is a lot of repetition to the point where one would listen to the same title by the same performer on the same day (I should have kept a full track of the repetitions but I did not do it, unfortunately, so I cannot provide proof; I can only ask others to listen carefully and try and find what I am referring to); there are times when one is flooded with recordings (belonging to what the radio calls "Album of the week") by performers of very little musical value; this makes me ponder whether there is some kind of publicity arrangement with the artist or his/her manager. This is more evident —to me, at least— when the albums happen to be titled "Beau Soir", "Diva Divo", "Bonjour Paris", "Solatino", and the like.
But, I know everything has a price one must pay. Margaret Mercer's programming work had to be paid with that awful and obscene flood of propaganda snippets one could not avoid.
In the end, I have to stick to what reality has to offer, which is less and less as time goes by. There used to be three classical music (or mostly classical music) radio stations in New York: WNCN, which disappeared years ago; WNYC, which kept increasing the dose of talk and ended being a talk radio when WQXR became a public radio station; and the short classical music programming at WKCR, which keeps alive, fortunately.
So, I keep tuning to WQXR but not always, as I used to.
Sorry if I've not been brief as requested.

Feb. 28 2011 08:41 PM
Gregg from Astoria NY

I, too, remember you Midge Woolsey, on channel 13. In fact, I grew up with the station...

But I also recall listening to the commercial form of WQXR during the same time period, and sometimes WNYC. It also happens that David's music from the movies, might have been inspired by both yours, and Donald Valencia's work.

So yes Classical Music, and Public Broadcasting do matter. And I've contacted both the offices of the Senate, and the Congressional representative for the area.

Feb. 28 2011 08:14 PM
Michael Meltzer

These, from Mark Twain:
"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress."

Feb. 28 2011 07:05 PM
Jack from N.J.

Budget cuts are difficult for every individual and institution, but a Federal budget which extends tax relief to well off individuals (who tend to return the favor) hoping "that" money will someday trickle down and eventually improve the economy / increase jobs - while simultaneously eliminating whole categories of funding and those associated jobs which are central to the heart and soul of our society, like education, arts programs and public broadcasting's cultural and educational programing is as bad a legacy to leave future generations as is debt.

All budgets are usually balanced by finding ways to increase revenue, eliminating waste, and cut all other expenses across the board, say 5%. NPR / PBS, the DOD, and 99% of our government's budget categories could live with a 5% or 10% cut, even If legislation is needed to carry out this simple solution.

Feb. 28 2011 04:42 PM
Leonard Gampel from New York

It is my recollection that 40 years ago NPR stations were supposed to be mostly Classical Music stations. Something happened!
Luckily stations like KMFA in Austin,TX. and WQXR have filled the void and continue (excellently) to supply the need for real Classical music.
Both stations made the mistake of using NPR classification for the sake of money.
Their mistake, the tables have turned.

Feb. 28 2011 01:30 PM
John J. Christaino from Franklin NJ

Can you imagine where we'd be today if the Pope decided "Sorry, Mike, we just don't have the funds to do the Sistene ceiling"? Or....

"Sorry Leo, my wife's portrait will have to wait"

Where would have the entire Italian Renaissance gone if it weren't for the commissions paid by the wealthy and the cities like Rome, Florence and Venice?

My God, are we dumbing down civilization because we are simply assuming we can't afford to bring beauty into our lives.

Feb. 28 2011 01:16 PM
David from Flushing

A major part of the funding problem for PBS is that it is no longer the only oasis in the "vast wasteland" of televison. Channel 13 in New York used to run an ad, "If PBS doesn't do it, who will?" Well, today there is an answer: the Science, National Geographic, History, and the news channels to mention but a few. The advent of niche broadcasting on cable had drawn many viewers from PBS, myself included.

The amount of money that goes to public broadcasting is actually quite small and the present attack has more to do with politics than any concern for finances. The news programs on the public stations are viewed as "Liberal" by the right, though I would argue that facts tend to have a liberal bias.

With competition from cable channels and the terminal decline of classical music, the future bodes ill for public broadcasting.

Feb. 28 2011 01:02 PM
Michael Meltzer

It has to be understood that when politicians do the right thing, it is usually for the wrong reasons. During the Cold War, Congress supported the National Endowment for the Arts, because the N.E.A. supported venues for defecting Russian artists. When the Cold War ended, all interest in the arts evaporated, and the N.E.A. goes begging.
If Public Radio regularly provided a free half-hour or so a week for each of the area Congressmen to "report" to the taxpayers (and unfairly campaign for the next election), then Congress would call Public Radio a wonderful thing, a bastion of democracy.

Feb. 28 2011 12:58 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

This is part of the response that I got from my congressional "representative" (whose views I will not discuss any further in this forum):

"In an age when consumers are able to choose from a wide variety of radio stations and other entertainment options, I believe that taxpayer-subsidized radio and television is unnecessary."

Obviously, this guy hasn't compared what you get on those publicly funded outlets with the dreck that makes up the majority of fare on commercial media (To say nothing of the sheer bliss of not having to endure hucksters of every conceivable product at every commercial break).

Luckily my senators responded differently, but in the current reactionary climate in Washington, we can only hope that this funding will continue.

Feb. 28 2011 12:32 PM
Robin Cohn from New York

It's scary that the dumbing down of America is getting even dumber. Public broadcasting has been a bastion of intelligence on radio and TV. WQXR gives me joy, NPR gives me the world and PBS gives me a menu of vibrant choices. It's hard to believe that there are those in our country who don't understand the wealth of public broadcasting. Sadly, they want to eliminate a treasure.

Feb. 28 2011 11:56 AM
Anna Lank

I had a difficult time finding where, on the WQXR homepage, to click to write a letter to my senators, etc. Perhaps a more prominent button is in order. I had to click on this blog to find it. It ought to be right up there under "how to support WQXR". Thanks.

Feb. 28 2011 11:52 AM


You can find more information here: http://www.wqxr.org/federalfunding/

Feb. 28 2011 10:52 AM
Ann Rieck from NYC

I just heard on WQXR that Congress has voted to halt funding for public broadcasting and that I should check your website for how to respond yet I can't find any link to my senator. Can you help me?

Feb. 27 2011 09:11 PM
Hermine from Bayside NY

WQXR is my station for wonderful music and NPR is my station for interviews and news. Public Broadcasting is a basic need of all thinking people, and deserves the continued financial support that keeps it alive. In order for NYC to retain its reputation as a cultural center, we should be proud and supportive of all public broadcasting!!

Feb. 27 2011 10:33 AM
Savi from Kew Gardens NY

To keep public broadcasting from tv to radio alive to is keep the truth available. With each passing day the continious cleverness of marketing, or a play on words, the change an image creates a new reality of what was once true, is no more.

Feb. 26 2011 11:20 PM
Pamela from Elmhurst, New York

While we all need public broadcasting, I believe that our young people, who are exposed to so much in our culture that is crass and corrosive to their minds and spirits, are in particular need to see and hear what uplifts us. If we really care about the young generation, then we must keep public broadcasting alive and healthy. Our future depends on it.

Feb. 25 2011 05:54 PM
Larry Stoler from Stamford, CT.

Midge, first of all, congratulations on your marriage.

I am in my late '50s. I grew up listening to all kinds of radio from all over the country. I even worked in commercial radio for a while until I decided to leave the business due to the bad decisions that continue to be made by the so called experts on what makes good programming these days.

I always considered it unique to have a classical music station on a commercial frequency in New York however when the New York Times decided to sell WQXR, there was no doubt in my mind that if WNYC had not been able to purchase the station that the format, presentation and the announcers would have disappeared from the radio dial in New York City. This would have been a true loss.

The people who object to the continued government funding of public broadcasting do not understand why it exist and what it provides. Being non commercial means that stations such as WQXR do not make their decisions based on demographics and ratings. The programming in the end is based on what will sound good on the air.

While it is true that we who enjoy classical music are in the minority, we are a unique minority. We are an audience that makes money, are very educated and we are interested in learning and understanding about the arts and the world around us.

People who object to the continuation of public broadcasting don't understand that being non commercial allows more time for stories that affect our daily lives to be covered in more detail than will be permitted in the commercial landscape.

I am proud to be a member of WQXR and be able to enjoy Midge and her calm, professional, soothing delivery and her love of the music when she is on the air. The other announcers also appreciate this music and demonstrate that every day.

Continue to write your Congressmen, Senators and other representatives to urge them to not cut off funds for this important resource/public broadcasting.

Feb. 25 2011 04:30 PM
Gerry DeChaves from Summit, New Jersey

Public Broadcasting matters because it is part of the overall continuing education of society. It is disturbing when some people complain that public funds are used to support the arts, which of course includes WQXR. I wonder if those same people would be willing to stop financing the schools system? No society survives in a meaningful way and achieves greatness unless an effort is made to educate all of its citizens. We pay a lot of attention to sports. The difference between arts and sports is that the latter, notwithstanding the loud protestations of “team spirit” development, actually appeal to the animal in us. It takes very little effort for that to happen. By contrast, the arts appeal to what is divine in the human soul, and require an effort to be understood and appreciated. In so doing, individuals become better people, tolerant and understanding of each other. That is what the world of today sorely needs. This is where Public Broadcasting comes in. Almost unobtrusively, it keeps making people aware that other more sublime things exist besides the kicking of airbags by highly paid so called athletes.

Feb. 25 2011 04:27 PM
Ron Barron from Poland, Ohio

Public broadcasting matters because of its unique content: nourishment for the mind and spirit. Classical music is rare and necessary. Commercial broadcasting certainly isn't providing it. Public stations are essentially the only broadcasters of great music (emphasis on essential).

NPR news and The News Hour provide fair, balanced and in-depth news stories. I can see why the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for public broadcasting. With billionaires controlling much of commercial "news" content our great country's freedom of information is certainly threatened by the possible elimination of public media. I called all the representatives and our two senators for Ohio urging them to support public media funding. I'll be checking to see how each voted.

Ms. Woolsey, you've been a magnificent presence on NY radio and television for many years. One might say, you and your colleagues are essential -- very essential!

Feb. 25 2011 04:13 PM

Re "...(A) Let the listeners know what selections are going to be played AHEAD of time on a daily schedule..." not currently legal.

Here is the code:

"Prior to its acquisition by WNYC, WQXR enjoyed a “grandfathered’ status regarding advance playlists. WNYC did not enjoy this status, and so, WQXR lost its status. Here is the code, copyright, which is in force.

U.S. Code Title 17 Chapter 1 Sec 114(d)(2)(B)(ii)

"(ii) The transmitting entity does not cause to be published by means of an advance program schedule or prior announcement the titles of the specific sound recordings or phonorecords embodying such sound recordings to be transmitted"

and (C)(ii) "the retransmitting entity does not cause to be published, or induce or facilitate the publication, by means of an advance program schedule or prior announcement, the titles of the specific sound recordings to be transmitted, the phonorecords embodying such sound recordings, or, other than for illustrative purposes, the names of the featured artists, except that this clause does not disqualify a transmitting entity that makes a prior announcement that a particular artist will be featured within an unspecified future time period..."

Feb. 25 2011 03:41 PM

This might not be on topic... but it was nice to hear Clayelle's voice on the radio again! As far as funding goes, I've written my senators and congressman, but I suspect that's like preaching to the choir.

Feb. 25 2011 03:05 PM

@ Michael Meltzer / And to add my two cents to your thoughts sir. (A) Let the listeners know what selections are going to be played AHEAD of time on a daily schedule. (B) Let the on air DJs select certain pieces themselves at times ( just to keep it fresh) (C) Play 1 hour of nothing but Sousa marches.....( just for little old me) Its a terrific station that just needs abit of ''fine tuning''

Feb. 25 2011 03:02 PM

Hi, Michael -

Thank you for taking the time to write. And, thank you for your kind words!

I am forwarding your questions and concerns on to key members of our management team for their consideration.

I appreciate your interest in what we do.

All best,

Midge Woolsey

Feb. 24 2011 07:37 PM
Michael Meltzer

Misspelling "Midge Woolsey" should be unforgivable, but please forgive me anyway. I promise to write it 100 times, correctly.

Feb. 24 2011 06:57 PM
Michael Meltzer

Ms. Woolsey:
You give WQXR much of the class that it has, please don't ever stop being Mifge Woolsey.
But, you mention "mission." I have inquire several times as to WQXR's formal mission statement, it never appears. It should, if done properly, summarize the station's goals and the standards to which its management wishes to be held accountable, and outline its chosen sphere of activity.
When public funds are used, public accountability is always an issue. Inquiries other than my own have been raised about the status of the legendary WQXR archive of recordings, no answer is ever forthcoming. Yet, I have assembled my own list of over 50 (a favorite WQXR number) generally acknowledged archival classics that have been requested and never aired, often recordings that I remember hearing on the old WQXR.
Is the archive intact? If it is, say so. If it is not, say so. That answer is extremely germane to anyone considering an endowment. Endowing an archive and its maintenance and growth is very different from endowing a lot of good wishes.
Again, WQXR is a public institution, it should not be managed like a private one.

Feb. 24 2011 06:53 PM

And we who remember you Midge on channel 13 miss you at their fund raising shows. I'll never forget seeing you many years ago ( mid-90's maybe?) wearing a gorgeous tight blue ladies suit....gleaming blonde hair...delivering an inspiring pep talk to the viewers. ( It reminded me of a zealous corner woman at a boxing match pumping her fighter up for the ''knockout'') Your charm was powerful AND convincing. And public broadcasting will always remain our highest broadcasting standard in the good old U.S.A.

Feb. 24 2011 02:31 PM

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About WQXR Blog

Ignite your love of classical music every day with the articles published in the WQXR blog. Here you can find blogs about classical music, playlist selections, curated videos, and other features highlighting the joy of great music.