Thursday, June 25, 2009

Expanding VPR Classical

One thing I’ve learned about Vermont Public Radio listeners is that they'll tell me exactly what they think. Last night I heard loud and clear that listeners in Addison County want their classical music back. Bonnie and John McCardell hosted a gathering of listeners at their home in Cornwall to help VPR spread the word about plans to bring VPR Classical to Addison County. We've secured a license to build a new full-power station based in Middlebury and serving an area that reaches from Vergennes to Brandon and from Port Henry, NY east to Ripton. The cost to build the station is $346,000, including first year operating costs. As soon as these capital dollars are raised, the station will be built and begin broadcasting.

Several people mentioned their disappointment that classical music was moved off of VPR back in fall 2007. That was when VPR began broadcasting news and information shows such as On Point, Vermont Edition, and the Story during the middle of the day. Why did VPR make this change?

For years listeners had been asking for more news or more classical, and it was obvious we weren’t serving either audience well. Nationally, “mixed format” stations such as VPR were losing listeners, while news stations were growing and full time classical stations were doing well. VPR was seeing a decline in listeners, and we knew that in order to keep VPR strong it was important to change to a news station, but we were also deeply committed to keeping classical music alive on the radio in Vermont.

In 2004, we launched VPR Classical on WNCH in the Upper Valley region and added several other classical stations over the next three years. After a great deal of thought, research and planning, we made the change on October 1, 2007. Some listeners complained, others celebrated, and the end result is that Vermont Public Radio now serves more listeners than ever before: 182,000 people tune into VPR or VPR Classical each week.

Our top priority is to expand our VPR Classical network to serve more Vermonters. VPR Classical is currently broadcasting to about 60% of the state, and can also be heard on HD radio and The areas that are not covered include Rutland, Montpelier, Randolph, Saint Johnsbury, Middlebury, and Brattleboro.

We are very pleased to have been awarded this Addison County frequency during a rare non-commercial application window. These opportunities don’t come along very often. The only way we can expand VPR Classical is through these FCC windows that granted us this station, or through buying a station from a commercial or religious broadcaster.

If you’re interested in helping to fund the expansion of VPR Classical, please let me know. We recognize that it’s challenging to raise money for any project these days, but this is an opportunity we don’t want to miss. At a time when commercial classical stations are disappearing, we have an opportunity to show the country that Vermonters care about classical music and want it to be there for this generation and generations to come.

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