WHRB May Carry Metropolitan Opera Program

Former carrier cites show's "inflexibility" as major problem

They carry Harvard football, Record Hospital and the ever-popular reading period "orgies." But WHRB-FM (95.3) may soon start airing a show that has a much higher-profile.

The Harvard radio station is currently discussing the possibility of carrying Saturday broadcasts of New York's Metropolitan Opera live starting this November, WHRB officials said.

"We're in negotiations right now," said WHRB vice president Clifford Y. M. Chen '00. "We're making sure this is something we want to do."

WHRB won the opportunity after WCRB-FM (102.5), a popular Boston classical station, decided to drop the program after carrying it for more than 60 years.

WCRB cited the Met's inflexibility as a major reason for dropping the program.


"They're wonderful people, but because they're the Met, they're totally unable to negotiate anything with us," said Bill Campbell, CEO of Charles River Broadcasting, WCRB's parent company.

Campbell says he received a barrage of phone calls--some threatening--after the station decided to sever its ties. But he said the conditions the opera imposed made it financially unfeasible for WCRB to continue the broadcasts.

"They will not allow us to have anything to say about what they play," Campbell said, adding that WCRB lost between $3,000 and $4,000 a year in advertising revenue to the show.

But Chen said he does not believe the Met's demands will be too difficult for the relatively tiny Harvard station to meet.

"I think it's not as big a concern for us because we don't have the money or finances commercial stations do," he said.

The opera program, which begins just as Harvard's football season ends, would replace classical music regularly programmed on Saturdays.

WHRB currently airs its own opera program on Sunday nights, playing live and taped concerts from companies such as the Chicago Lyric Opera.

And Chen said the addition of the new opera programming might draw attention to the station and its classical programming.

"The Met operas that are broadcast do tend to be a little more well known than the ones we broadcast," he said, adding that the Saturday program would "certainly compliment" the existing Sunday opera broadcasts.

"For us it certainly would expand our

audience, perhaps to a less esoteric classical crowd," Chen said.

Broadcasting out of Pennypacker Hall's basement at 6,000 watts, it is still unlikely that WHRB will be able to reach out to as large an audience as bigger stations could.

But WHRB has few competitors seeking to carry on the Metropolitan opera tradition.

Another potential Metropolitan opera broadcaster, Boston's public radio station WGBH-FM (89.7), recently said they declined to carry the opera program because it would displace its popular Saturday afternoon folk music shows.

But WHRB said they felt the broadcasts are significant enough for the station to alter its programming plans.

"It's an important broadcast and a very high quality one, we feel, that should be available in Boston," Chen said

Recommended Articles