AT WSKG, TALK
By LIBBY CUDMORE
It’s could be the day the music died – classical music, that is – in Otsego County.
On Sunday, Feb. 3, Binghamton-based WSKG, which broadcast on 91.7 across much of the county – will convert from classical music and news programming to all-talk, including “Fresh Air” and “Morning Edition”.
Sister station WSQX’s transmitter, which broadcasts into Cooperstown on 105.9, will also be all-talk.
Other WSKG and WSQX affiliates will switch to a service called WSKG Classic, but those signals are won’t reach Oneonta or Cooperstown.
For some people, that’s a shame.
“When I’m in my studio, I love having that classical station on,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who restores historic documents. “It’s disappointing.
But WSKG CEO Greg Catlin said a survey showed most of the local listeners prefer all-talk to classical, 2-1.
“Some of our listeners won’t be able to receive the station and we apologize,” said Catlin. “But this is what we have to do for the long-term health of the station.”
The surveys of members were conducted in 2009, 2015 and 2016, and showed they preferred the single format station, rather than switching between classical music and news programming.
“When I became CEO in 2017, I looked at the studies and wondered why we hadn’t done anything,” he said. “It was very clear that this is our future.
“People were begging us to just have a station for news and conversation, and people were begging us to have a station that was just classical.”
However, Tillapaugh likes it just the way it will be – until Sunday. “It was a nice blend,” said Tillapaugh. “I like the music, but I also like ‘All Things Considered.’”
Podcasting and Internet streaming are becoming the primary way customers listen to music, said Catlin. “People aren’t consuming radio like they used to,” he said. “They’re not turning on the radio the old-fashioned way.”
With WSKG as the “mothership,” Catln decided to make that the all-talk station.
“We sent out a survey to just our Cooperstown listeners and asked what they prefer to listen to, news or classical, and 2-1, they said news,” he said.
Although most radio listeners can get 91.7 across the county, Catlin said “we only have one translator in Cooperstown, and based on that survey, we decided we should keep the translator on WSKG.”
And although you won’t be able to get WSQX over the radio, Catlin said that there are still ways to enjoy your favorite classical music 24 hours a day. “You can listen on our website or on Echo or Alexa smart speakers,” he said. “I got one for Christmas and I turned off my radio. That’s the best way to listen.”
They are also in the process of developing a WSKG app.
However, many in the area lack a strong enough signal to make listening possible. “WSQX only goes as far as Bainbridge, so we won’t be able to get it in Cooperstown,” said Tillapaugh. “I don’t want to have talk radio on when I have clients over.”
And Tillapaugh believes the loss to be a detriment to a community of fans. “This is a classic music community,” she said. “We have the world-renown Glimmerglass Festival, the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival, we have a lot of classical music .”