Monday, February 01, 2010

The QXR Network

There is so little Classical music in commercial radio now that the idea of a Classical network seems at first ludicrous. NPR of course provides a litany of classical programs on it's network. Most of them are run at night, or interspersed between talk programs. The format is all but dead. It's rare stations who totally ignore their ratings like WRTI who opt to run classical in the day to the detriment of their other programming. But 60 years ago it was all different.
WQXR first tried network programming in 1948. It didnt' work out. they might have stayed away from it but in 1950, WFMZ in Allentown, PA approached WQXR with the possibility of rebroadcasting WQXR's programs. Tests were conducted and WFMZ became an "affiliate". I use the term loosely. They received the AM signal of WQXR and re-broadcast. More here.

In 1953 The Rural Radio Network was falling apart and its affiliates looked into becoming a part of this new QXR Network. WBIB New Haven, joined QXR in July of 1950. WQXR eventually absorbed most of the RRN stations. But off air relay has it's problems. If one station goes down, everybody in line behind them loses the feed. Despite technical problems, the network manged to grow. But something was wrong. James Sondheim the Network manager admitted that until 1958 the network didn't even attempt to become profitable. Stations included: WTAG, WFLY, WFFM, WFMZ, WASH, WITH, WFIL, WJTH, WROC, WGR, WNBF, WIOV, WRUN, WSYR, WHDL and many others. By 1960 there were 20 stations on board. This was out of hand. They needed to make some money. In 1962 The New York times sold the network to the Novo Industrial Corporation. Novo president William Romain was very quiet through out the partnership. At the time this was billed as an expansion. The then 36-station network was to expand to 50 within a year and 100 within 2 years. They were to add talk programming, interview shows, and refocus on spot sales. None of those things happened. On October 21st 1963 the network planned to go live coast-to-coast. But the music programming was distributed by tape. Some of the business programs were syndicated over landlines.

But the math was all wrong. Affiliates saw that they weren't making the cash on the network programming that they did on local programming. the network peaked at about 44 stations. By the fall of 1963 the QXR Network was history.