Failing to find a WRTI email address, I will snail-mail the following letter to the station. Since WRTI is a Public Radio station, this letter is therefore public. I hope you’ll consider putting it in print….and that you’ll let me know if you do. Thanks. John Jonik
WRTI Temple University January 28, 2005
As a listener to WRTI for a very long time, I feel obliged to write concerning the current state of the station. I can assure you that my feelings are shared by others.
Briefly, the station has become almost unlistenable. When I do listen, out of desperation in finding the Philadelphia area to be often lacking in any radio broadcasting of interest, I soon find myself either changing the station or resorting to recordings.
It is hard to imagine who your intended audience is or who you think they are. Not quite knowing where to begin, I will randomly run down a litany of complaints.
* Your “classical” music programming seems generally to be taken from some of those discount sampler “greatest hits” anthology LPs, as you seem to be catering to the lowest denominator of “easy listening” tastes. Certainly, some choices are excellent…but you have played them into the ground to the point that even they are now unpleasant. Most of the other stuff sounds like it’s coming from a “pops” orchestra….or worse, a department store lingerie section. Are you doing this on purpose?
* The jazz programming is hardly better…as some choices that I used to like (“My Little Sunflower” comes to mind) are played virtually every evening to the point that I now greatly dislike the song, by whoever recorded it, to the point of turning off the station. It is troubling that Mr. Perkins doesn’t seem to realize what he’s doing by, apparently, taking Popularity Polls about what to play instead of following his own instincts. We are fortunate that Britny Spears hasn’t risen to the top of the polls.
* Your incessant, persistent and frequent announcements are intolerable…kin to people talking, or worse, trying to sell you something, in the audience at a concert. I ask you to consider putting all the cultural events announcements on the air at One Time…perhaps 5:00 p.m. and/or 11:00 a.m. For one reason, it is impossible for any listener to hear announcements of interest, except by luck, if the events are scattered throughout a day. For another reason, the announcements are utterly incompatible with dining, reading, working, or having conversations…or taking long winter baths or other quiet pursuits. They are rude interruptions.
* Of all the announcements, one variety stands out as the worst. I refer to those theater promos, from Plays and Players, I believe, that always employ that cute, oh-so-dramatic, “preview” of the story. (“The wind blew…the night was cold…a voice rang out…” etc etc.) These are without question the most annoying commercials currently on any broadcasting outlet. I hope you realize that is saying a lot…noting the things that appear on TV.
* Other worst announcements are the ones for Tours to “exotic”, “romantic”, “thrilling” places. The descriptions are so syrupy and precious that one wants to dress the radio as a turkey and throw it into public game lands in season. I think also of the Temple area community that, in a million years, could not afford to take such a trip. The insult of dangling such Wealthy Person’s Pursuits in front of a truly suffering community is significant…as if you either don’t know or don’t care. WRTI was, after all, established as a community station, in partial exchange for Temple’s taking of so much of the neighborhood over the years. Those commercials, to put it kindly, are a form of a certain rude hand gesture to the entire community.
* The adult announcers seem utterly out of place being on a University Public Station. I cannot imagine that most Temple students even listen. There is nothing new or extraordinary or even contemporary on the station. The jazz is (generally) all “safe” and soft, and the “classics” seem more appropriate for a Florida Retirement Community. Jazz classics are rarely, if ever, played. There is no modern contemporary or experimental music, such as is performed by Philadelphia’s Relache ensemble. You insult and patronize the entire listening audience if you think this is “too deep” or “too obscure” for them.
* I, for one, particularly miss the long-gone Reggie Bryant call-in show that addressed issues that other stations ignore as matter of course. This show was perfectly and appropriately surrounded by the jazz before and after. Above that, I am in large company in missing the Pacifica News and Democracy Now!, programs that I would never think of missing unless I was at the dentist or something.
I don’t imagine anything I say will change anything. This is to just get it on the record, and to preempt anyone saying that there “haven’t been any complaints.” This is not to say that all the music is bad…it is to say that even the good things are USED as part of what has been made into a boring, aggravating, sanitized, indeed Sterilized (lifeless, dead) overall theme…one used apparently to serve commercial purposes. I would guess that if the late Nina Simone knew how her music was used at WRTI she would refuse permission to air it.
If the commercial elements are “sad realities”, results of current gov’t funding cuts to all public services, then say so. That our public funds, to any degree, support a forum for commercial promotions is unacceptable. Report the details. Give your audience the information needed to demand that Congress restores proper funding.
If the station is thought to somehow reflect the atmosphere of Temple University…I can’t imagine who might be attracted by it.
Please return the station to the students…all students. Return the station to the public which, after all, owns it.
PS: A public classical music station in Maine, one of the top poorest states in the country, manages to play excellent, often rarely-heard, and extended classical pieces all day, without interruptions seemingly ever. Having listened to that for a week last summer made the horrors of WRTI all the more glaring by comparison. Please investigate that station and find out how they manage, while WRTI cannot seem to.