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To the editors:
Peter Dominowski’s answers to Bryan Miller’s questions (cover story, June 22) suggest that the new program director may not ruin WFMT but that his new policies will take the station far from what it was before CETA forced it to become a profitmaking institution and will probably turn it into Chicago’s classical Muzak station.
To grasp Mr. Dominowski’s thinking, it is necessary to cut through the evasion, obfuscation, tortuous reasoning, and ad-biz jargon that characterize many of his statements. Then several key ideas emerge:
(1) The WFMT audience is only a “market,” and the sole criterion of a station’s success is the total number of listeners and the length of time they stay tuned.
(2) Listeners tune in (and switch stations) only on impulse, and what they are seeking is music that is “fun” and “comfortable to listen to.” (Though Mr. Dominowski would doubtless dismiss me as “atypical,” I look through the printed schedule each month to check off what I particularly want to hear. But if we get “segued sets,” there may be no need for a printed schedule–and hence no need to buy Chicago magazine.)
(3) There is no such thing as “terribly superior” classical music–and hence no difference between Mozart and Mantovani. Programming is “simply a technique” with “no positive or negative value,” and the deciding factor is “what programming can be made possible by advertisers.”
These ideas are certainly not what guided WFMT before the advent of Alfred Antlitz and not what satisfied many, if not most, of its serious listeners. Of course the notion of serious listeners is a matter of contempt or indifference to Mr. Dominowski, who dismisses them, in a display of inverted snobbery, as Ph.D.s, “elitist,” governed by “whim,” and mired in the past. For those listeners whose preferences are ignored, he follows Marie Antoinette’s philosophy: let ’em buy cassettes. (If we are to have less vocal music and fewer artists of the past, goodby to Marty Robinson, Andy Karzas, and Don Tate.)
There is simply no way to increase WFMT’s audience quickly by one third, as Mr. Dominowski wishes, without compromising quality. And perhaps some of the increase will be offset by the loss of the listeners who still want traditional quality programming.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Dominowski invokes the example of Ardis Krainik, general director of Lyric Opera, who is indeed “looking toward the 21st century”; but in fact she is doing it by expanding the repertory beyond the top 40 to include more 20th-century European and American operas, not by cutting back to those operas that provide E-Z listening.
Courtney B. Lawson