The New York Times announced yesterday that they had sold WQXR, New York's major classical music radio station, to Univision and WNYC. Univision will take over WQXR's frequency (96.3 FM) later this year, while WQXR will move up the dial to 105.9 and a weaker transmitter. The Times is dumping assets while trying to "weather a newspaper industry downturn" and WQXR was a property they couldn't afford to keep. The station will become a listener-supported public radio station, which keeps it on the air but with pledge drives. For the moment, the station remains on the air at its current frequency and online at wqxr.com.
I've been a fan of WQXR since I moved here ten years ago, listening at work via their web site. So the station's move to a weaker signal doesn't affect me directly, but the potential loss of another classical station does. I understand the Times Co.'s motivation: classical music radio is almost as much of a dinosaur as the newspaper industry. It's a weak genre with a graying audience. It's not popular with young people or advertisers. But I think it's important to preserve stations like WQXR. Even if there's a small audience for classical music, it's a loyal one. And WQXR has relationships with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera that are vital to those institutions. If we lose WQXR, we lose another connection to our musical heritage and history. I hope that the station continues to be the flagship for classical music radio here in New York. It would be a shame for a city as great as this one to lose its only classical station.