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Yes, the secret sale of Classical South Florida was unconscionable. Now how do we get classical radio back?
Classical South Florida played its final notes last Wednesday, after its …
Classical South Florida board member charges threats by APM, asks attorney general to investigate; WLRN offers an online alternative
Richard Rampell, a former board member of Classical South Florida, has asked Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate the sale of one of its stations, WPBI, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post.
The Palm Beach station, along with WKCP Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and WNPS Ft.Myers-Naples, was recently sold by the Minnesota-based American Public Media to Education Media Foundation, a California religious broadcaster. EMF has changed the three stations’ format from classical music to Christian pop.
Rampell, a Palm Beach County CEO, requested in his July 22 letter to the attorney general that she prohibit the sale of the stations “until a fair airing of grievances” by members of the board and the public.
Rampell says APM negotiated the sale by usurping the authority of the local Classical South Florida board, and presenting the sale as a fait accompli, without seeking alternative buyers or ascertaining whether the $21.7 million dollar sale price was fair. The sale is expected to receive final approval of the FCC by this coming fall.
Rampell also claims APM counsel Sylvia Strobe, in a letter, threatened board members that they could be ejected or subject to lawsuits if they interfered with the sale. Half of the 14-member board resigned before the meeting at which the sale was approved by a 3-2 vote. The deciding vote was cast by APM president Jon McTaggart who refused to recuse himself for conflict of interest when requested by other board members.
A group of Palm Beach County listeners have organized with the aim to buy back the station and return it to a classical format. EDF has indicated it is open to a sale after hearing the community’s reaction.
In a related development, Miami public radio station WLRN has announced that, starting August 10, its HD radio channel will change format from alternative news and talk to “Classical 24.” WLRN general manager John LaBonia noted that the station had broadcast the stream before Classical South Florida came into being and said it is important to fill the void now that South Florida again lacks a classical radio station. It will be available on HD radios, streaming on the internet at wlrn.org and on I-Phone and Android devices via the station’s apps.
Ironically, Classical 24, largely consisting of Baroque and light classics, is produced by American Public Media. The format is the same automated lineup that made up the central component of Classical South Florida’s programming.
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