To the editors:

On February 1, 1990, fine arts radio station WFMT abandoned its policy prohibiting prerecorded advertisements [Hot Type, February 2]. Until the day before the new policy was announced, station officials tried to pacify concerned listeners–who had heard rumors of plans to gradually destroy the format which had made WFMT a nationally renowned cultural institution–with denials that any such policy change was going to be implemented in the immediate future. Listeners who love the station are concerned. Without the clear bar against prerecorded ads there is no remaining “guardrail” from the slippery slope of tasteless advertising that will destroy the station’s ambience and unique nature.

It is essential that listeners, and lovers of fine arts programming let the station–and particularly the advertisers know that these changes are not appreciated.

Sponsors such as Talman Home should be told that the prerecorded ads are counterproductive. They should be reminded that the wrong type of advertising can undermine a sponsor’s image–e.g. what happens when an ad is associated with an offensive program, a spokesperson of ill repute, or is considered tasteless. In such case the sponsor is worse off for its advertising.

Similarly, sponsors should be reminded that such ads insult the audience. They suggest that the sponsor so underestimates our intelligence that it believes the message cannot be gotten if it is calmly stated by an announcer; that the sponsor believes that only aural bombardment or “Madison Avenue” tricks can get the message across.

If we want to save WFMT as the special station that it is we must make our voices heard now. We must let the sponsors know that we hear their ads, all right: that we will remember which companies have so little taste or respect for our intelligence, and will try to avoid using their products and services. If sponsors back off from prerecorded ads because they are counterproductive, the tinkerers who are destroying WFMT’s format and ambience will be restrained.

James K. Genden