Ever since WBEZ announced its planned programming switch [The Business, April 14 and May 26] there has been a swirl of debate regarding the merits of broadcasting jazz music. My musical taste, or the taste of a thousand other listeners, is of little consequence to the management of a public radio station. This is as it should be; their job is to program what is most valuable for the community as a whole. The real programming question is what is best: all talk, all music, or a mixture of the two?
If WBEZ was bursting with hard-hitting news reporting and insightful debate, an all-talk format would be cause for excitement. Currently they rebroadcast many of their news programs and pad other time slots with CBC shows and light entertainment, including more than one quiz show. They have yet to announce how they will fill eight additional hours of time each day. Given their present programming, it’s difficult to see how this format could benefit the public.
Radio is by definition a medium of sound. The most valuable public service WBEZ can provide is the broadcast of complete, direct, authentic recordings. Along with speeches, poetry, and prose, radio provides a crucial public service when it explores the art of sound, music. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song is certainly worth a thousand hours of commentary. WBEZ’s music programming is far from reaching its potential to present the powerful cultural expressions of its diverse audience. Abandoning music altogether will only take it farther from the very community it is designed to serve.