The WYEP rant

I have never gotten more response to anything I’ve ever done on the radio than this impromptu rant, which was broadcast June 28, 2014 …

A reminder once again that opinions expressed on the Radio 9 show are not those of WRCT Radio Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, the staff or management of WRCT.

They’re not even my opinions, quite frankly; I subscribe to a service which sends me opinions. (It’s called Fox News. Ha! Ha!)

So, I’m sitting in a local watering hole and I pick up a Pittsburgh City Paper, and on the cover is a story called “WYEP marks 40 years as the station that refused to die.”

Anyway, we’re not supposed to talk about other radio stations here. They don’t talk about us. They never mention us. But this story … how do I say this?

Well, first of all, congratulations to them on their 40th anniversary. Of course, WRCT has been around since 1947. We have been on the FM band for 40 years. Are we on the cover of City Paper? No!

We couldn’t make the cover of “Hobo News.” (But that, as they say at the circus, is rear-elephant.)

As the story points out, WYEP started out on a shoestring, and someone else was wearing the shoes. They were up here in Oakland, not too far from us — we were in Skibo Hall, they were in Cable Place. They talk about how no one had much radio experience, how it was a “sounding board” for “community announcements,” there were keg parties, there were flash floods in the studio, there were interviews with people like Isaac Asimov, Pete Seeger, Graham Chapman.

Two of the original volunteers poured their life savings into getting the station on the air. They secured grants from organizations across the country. A professor from the University of Pittsburgh got involved, it says, because he was the only one in the bunch who owned a suit.

This is all very well so far, and it’s actually very laudable that the community came together and put this little radio station — WYEP — on the air.

But then the story gets to the 1980s, and here’s where things start to go very, very wrong.

Because they call in former WYEP general manager Lee Ferraro — let’s get him for a comment, right? And former WYEP general manager Lee Ferraro says the programming needed to be more about “great music,” and not about being “the granola station” or “the lesbian folk station.”

Now, what Mr. Ferraro means is that they had to be more corporate. They had to play a tighter playlist. They had to, essentially, put on a bad imitation of an album-rock station from the 1980s. That’s what the eminent Mr. Ferraro is saying about WYEP.

That all of these volunteers, busting their buns, scraping together money, they were amateur hour — much like WRCT, come to think of it! — these community announcements and so forth, this was all bogus.

Instead, WYEP decided, let’s crawl as far up the butts of the corporate record companies as we can, and let’s play as many burned out ’70s album-rock artists as we can who are still turning out music — squeezing one out every so often, so to speak.

So, that’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that Mr. Ferraro basically flips the bird to WYEP’s audience — the granola-eating lesbians, as he puts it, because ha ha ha! That’s really funny!

But then we get into the takeover of Duquesne University’s radio station, WDUQ, and Mr. Ferraro brags about the fact that Pittsburgh really “deserved” an all-NPR news station.

Because yes, that really took a lot of courage and creativity, to plug in the NPR satellite, pot it up, and walk away.

That takes great vision, and once again — having crawled as far up the butts of the corporate record labels as they possibly could, the former “lesbian granola folk station” has now crawled up the butts of NPR’s underwriters.

And isn’t it convenient that they took out of the market their one-time competitor for listeners and donations? That’s fascinating, isn’t it?

And to sum up the level of creativity over there on the South Side, when they needed to come up with call letters for their all-news station, they couldn’t even come up with original call letters — they had to steal the call letters (WESA) from a station in Charleroi!

So, let’s review what happened here in the span of the 40 glorious years of “where the music matters.” We went from community volunteers scraping together the money to put on a community radio station, to having a very tightly formatted, corporate music station and an all-NPR news station.

After reading this story, I would have to say that we have a new contender for “the upper-class twit of the year.”

And for those of you who might say, “Well, Jay Thurber’s just jealous, because he’s stuck down there at WRCT,” I’m really not. After all, WRCT isn’t my only low-rated radio outlet.

Others of you might think I’m just frustrated because I’m a “has-been.” That’s not true! In fact, I’m a “never-was.”

But I would have to say that after reading that story, and after listening to that other station, I would rather broadcast on CB radio to meth-addled truckers from the parking lot of a Westmoreland County strip club, than to set one foot inside their “community broadcast center.”

And I’m not blaming the reporter for City Paper who wrote the story. It’s the whole attitude of that station — some of their people hold their listeners in utter contempt. I just think they should take their 40th anniversary bumper stickers and shove them in their ears just about as far as they will go, you hipster doofus wanna-bes.

The preceding rant does not reflect the views of WRCT Radio Inc., its volunteers or (mis?) management, the Pittsburgh Pirates or the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Responsible replies are unlikely.

4 thoughts on “The WYEP rant”

  1. It always burns me during a pledge drive when a WYEP DJ will say, “you won’t hear that song/artist anywhere in Pittsburgh….” Truth be told, 95% of the time, that song/artist was played on WRCT loooong before WYEP attempted to play it. Trendsetters, they are not.

  2. I used to love WYEP back in the early ’80s. Harry Wagner played the greatest stuff on his “Beat Sickness” show and Hakim turned me on to raggae on “The Aural Invasion”. Now that was stuff that you didn’t hear anywhere else. That’s the first place that I heard Cure, Violent Femmes, and many others. Then the station changed. When I would call in a request the DJs would tell me that it doesn’t fit the format. I would tell them that I heard it on their station earlier in the day and they would get nasty and tell me that it wasn’t on their show, so they wouldn’t play it. Needless to say, I never donated again. Community radio my ass………….

    Now I listen to Jay Thurber, Viva La Mock and Zombo.

    Thanks for the great music.

    Dee Jay Taminator

      1. Great mix of stuff on your show. A lot of my old favorite bands and a lot of stuff that I never heard before that have become new favorites………………….

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