Fairbanks WKLB/WCLB & WCRB

Rob Landry 011010001@interpring.com
Wed Jan 18 13:14:46 EST 2017

On Wed, 18 Jan 2017, Doug Drown wrote:

> I wasn't aware of the complaints about the station's programming, though I
> would have been sympathetic.  During my college and early professional
> years in the late '60s to mid '70s, before I moved to Maine, WCRB was a
> Boston institution --- considered one of the greatest classical radio
> stations in the country, and enjoying Arbitron ratings that were in eastern
> Massachusetts' top tier, just below WHDH and WRKO.

When I started working at WCRB in 1985, the station's audience share 
ranged between 1.1 and 1.7. It was ranked in the top twenty, but barely. 
Stories were told among the staff about lean times a few years earlier 
when the station was carried by its sound systems sister company, and at 
one point the principal owner, Ted Jones, had to mortgage his house to 
keep WCRB on the air. It had never been spectacularly profitable. 
Originally an AM station at 1330, the FM at 102.5 was added in 1954. The 
AM station was sold in the mid 1970's and became WDLW (now WRCA).

> By the end of the century, the playlist had become annoyingly tight, 
> degenerating into what was, in my estimation, the classical music 
> equivalent of a standard light rock station --- the same "best-known" 
> symphonic and solo pieces ("classical lite," as they're somewhat 
> derisively called) --- played over and over again.

After Ted's death in 1991, the other stockholders began pressuring 
management to make the station more profitable. At the same time, long 
time spnsorships, such as that of Delta Airlines for the Sunday night 
opera show and Raytheon for the Boston Symphony, began to evaporate as 
these sponsors began looking for better resuls for their money.

In 1997, the Board of Trustees fired Ted's hand-picked general manager, 
Cynthia Scullin, and replaced her with Bill Campbell, the man who had 
launched WMJX for Greater Media in 1981. Mario Mazza, whom Cynthia had 
hired as program director, was given free rein to push up the ratings. 
Mario's formula was that of an easy listening station built around 
classical music, and it was a huge hit. WCRB peaked at number 7 with a 4.5 
audience share.

> If I heard Horowitz play "Polonaise" on Tuesday morning, I could predict 
> that I would hear it again that night, the next day, and the day 
> following.  All of that has blessedly changed under WGBH's ownership,

In December 2006, WCRB was sold for $100 million to Greater Media, which 
immediately moved its "Country 99.5" WKLB to 102.5, replacing WCRB. The 
classical format and the WCRB call letters were given to Nassau 
Broadcasting along with the 99.5 station in a complex deal in which 
Greater Media got a Nassau-owned station in the Phaldelphia market. 
Nassau's programming formula was similar to Mario's, but with some changes 
to the playlist. Nassau sold WCRB 99.5 FM to WGBH for $14 million in 
December, 2009.

Nassau's WCRB had been pulling a consistent 3 share, but WGBH's WCRB has 
never been able to approach that. WCRB's share since 2009 has generally 
been in the high 1's to low 2's.

> The same thing was true on Maine's W-BACH stations for quite some time
> until Bill Binnie bought them.  The playlist has improved considerably
> since.  To his credit, Binnie seems to take his ownership of the stations
> seriously.

W-BACH was also onwned by Nassau; for a time it was programmed out of 
WCRB's Waltham studios. When Binnie bought it, he replaced Nassau's format 
with Mario's 1997 WCRB format, which W-BACH runs to this day.

Binnie is dropping W-BACH's classical format on February 28. The stations 
will be flipping to something else.

The Mario format can still be heard on WFCC (Cape Cod), WCRI (Block 
Island), WBQK (Williamsburg, VA), and WSCS (New London, NH).


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