To the editors:

Last week’s Reader (4/ 10) carried a letter (“WFMT: Tempest in a Teapot”) that was harshly critical of both Chicago classical FM radio stations, WFMT and WNIB. As a classical music lover and broadcast engineer, I would like to suggest that we Chicagoans are indeed blessed to have such musical resources at our beck and call. Reader Mary Hoberg came down especially hard on WNIB, a station that has consistently provided high-quality programming with limited resources. The past ten years (which she refers to as a period of decline) have seen many improvements at WNIB, including expanded classical broadcast hours, a much-improved record library, and new air staff who are more involved with their music and their audience than ever before. Jay Andres, who hosts Morning Song, is anything but a “giggling lowbrow imported from an easy-listening station.” He has a distinguished broadcast career spanning several decades, in-depth knowledge of an incredibly wide range of concert music, and a marvelous sense of humor. Here is a man who loves music and enjoys sharing it with friends! He almost makes you forget that the radio is there!

The comment that WNIB sounds “thin and tinny” is probably the result of comparison to the hyped, squashed “poopery” being dispensed nearly everywhere else on the FM dial. Actually, music played on WNIB is about as true to the original as you’re likely to hear over the radio, because it passes through a minimum of audio processing equipment. Unfortunately, WNIB broadcasts with somewhat less power than WFMT, which has a special FCC exemption. To compensate for this, WNIB purchased the facilities of a smaller station in Zion, Illinois (now WNIZ), which is used to simulcast its programming and improve coverage to northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Listeners using digital tuners should try 96.9 MHz if the signal on 97.1 MHz isn’t clear.

As for those “ghastly, prerecorded commercials,” reader Hoberg, they are the lifeblood of any broadcast operation. Through sales of its program guide, WNIB is able to keep such interruptions to a minimum. True, some of them do sound “out of place” on a classical station because of the way they were produced — but even WFMT’s live spots can be a bit much at times, especially during the morning hours. “Public” stations advertise by “acknowledging” sponsors or soliciting contributions, often for days at a time, by endlessly repeating their phone numbers.

So next time, instead of complaining, why not just be thankful that someone is willing to support the kind of programming you enjoy; and consider showing your appreciation by purchasing the products and services they offer?

Edgar Reihl