Another Local Media Basketcase: WGBH-FM

While WGBH was busy building a gleaming monument to itself in Brighton, the public broadcast outfit’s FM operation continued to languish. LEED certification (a fuzzy concept to say the least) was a priority, programming, not so much.

Now, in a tough climate where donations have declined, the public television giant is now forced to pay attention to previously-ignored aspects of its operation.

WGBH-FM certainly qualifies as neglected: thanks to Arbitron’s new electronic PPM ratings system, public radio stations are now included with their commercial counterparts. And while Boston University’s WBUR-FM has fared well so far, taking seventh overall in the most recent survey, WGBH is stuck in twenty-second place, just ahead of a distant Providence-based country outlet, WCTK-FM.

Public radio stations need ratings as well, otherwise, the potential donor base becomes too small to sustain the operation. In addition, businesses making grants in exchange for on-air plugs get little for their money.

With that bleak outlook, GBH suits have decided to revamp its programming, modeling it somewhat after WBZ-AM, with news and talk, while music is generally phased out (or moved to WCRB-FM). But where does a leftist outfit acquire talk shows in this climate of conservative “hate” that fills commercial airwaves?

From WGBH-2’s boring, pro-establishment public affairs programming, of course! Yes, let’s turn unwatched television into unheard radio! The result: radio talk shows hosted by Emily Rooney and Callie Crossley.

If you’ve got two short hours to sacrifice from your daily routine, Emily and Callie will be glad to fill you in on why Mayor-For-Life Menino is such a great guy, why Deval Patrick deserves a second term and how it doesn’t matter whether Martha Coakley campaigns on any actual issues, her partisan affiliation alone is enough.

Whether WBZ or anyone else is shaking in their boots over this move is questionable, but it is interesting that WGBH sees its future in news and talk, while Entercom has so much contempt for the format and Greater Media allows WTKK-FM to experience a slow and painful death.

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