The Washington Post reports that WETA's board of directors voted last week to authorize station management to consider reverting to music programming if the area's only remaining classical outlet, WGMS, drops the format as expected.
Red Zebra Broadcasting, a regional operator of sports-talk radio stations which is owned by Washington Redskins proprietor Daniel Snyder, signed a preliminary agreement to purchase WGMS last week.
In 2005, WETA switched from a primarily classical music schedule to news and talk programming, principally from NPR, American Public Media and the BBC. As at many other public radio stations which have made similar changes, WETA's switch was justified at the time as a way to increase audiences and donations, according to the Post. Yet many listeners complained that the change caused WETA to duplicate programming already available in Washington on WAMU-FM, and donations to WETA initially fell in the wake of the change. However, station representatives told the Post that WETA's ratings, which had been falling, have since risen from 1.8% of all area listeners early last year to 2.5%, the level the station had three years ago.
The paper also suggests that classical music remains a viable radio format in the Washington area, with WGMS ranking seventh in audience share among local stations.