Wednesday, November 23, 2005

No Religious Christmas Music: WRIT Responds

An update about the fact that Milwaukee “Oldies” radio station WRIT-FM was, earlier this week, playing Christmas music full-time but playing no religious Christmas music:

Before blogging on the issue, we tried to contact (both by e-mail and by phone) WRIT Program Director Jeff Lynn. He failed to respond.

But now, James Wigderson, of the Wigderson Library & Pub, has gotten a reply from Lynn.

Lynn’s first response:
I guess I am curious how Christmas music, honoring a religious holiday avoids Christmas. Don’t believe everything you hear on our competitors.
Wedgerson then pointed out to Lynn that the information didn’t come from “competitors” but from this blog. Lynn’s reply then repeats the idea that Christmas songs are religious no matter what the content:
CHRISTMAS songs . . . Have nothing to do with the birth of Christ? Christmas songs? What are they about then? Is there something else that Christmas stands for other than the birth of Christ? Please note the line in Professor McAdams blog that say [sic] “we are left to speculate.” His speculation is unfounded and incorrect.
Of course we “speculated” about the motives of WRIT, since Lynn had refused to tell us what their motives were. But Widgerson then pressed him on the fact that we weren’t “speculating” on the facts of WRIT’s playlist, and asked “And please answer the question, will you play any religious Christmas music or not?” Lynn responded:
We are. That is what disturbs me so much about this whole thing.

Perhaps I errored [sic] by not responding to The Professor but in his messages he seemed to have an agenda and it seemed like any debate with him was futile. Just moments ago I heard Kenny Rogers singing, “Away in a Manger.” I think that is a religious song. Yes, we are and will continue to.
As for whether our messages had an “agenda,” the following is the e-mail we sent Lynn on Monday:
Hi, Jeff,

I’ve noticed something interesting about your playlist. You don’t play any religious Christmas music at all!

This can’t be an accident, since a large proportion of Christmas songs are explicitly religious. And it can’t be Clear Channel corporate policy, since WOKY is also Clear Channel, and their playlist has about the normally expected proportion of religious songs.

Is it your judgment that there is some market niche out there that wants Christmas music but doesn’t want any references to Baby Jesus, the stable, etc.?

Do you work up this playlist yourself? Or is it put together by somebody else (somebody at Clear Channel corporate or some such)?

I’ll be blogging on this soon, and really am wondering.

Any information you can give me will be appreciated. I’ll consider it “on the record” unless you tell me otherwise.

Feel free to call me at 414-963-[redacted] (evenings) or 414-288-3425 (days), if you would prefer to chat.

Thanks.

John McAdams
Marquette Warrior Blog
http://www.mu-warrior.blogspot.com
Readers can decide for themselves what “agenda” was involved here. Our intention was to get an explanation.

Had Lynn’s plan been to work Christian music into the rotation as Christmas drew nearer (a claim that the station eventually adopted), he could have easily said so.

Even when facing people having an “agenda,” giving an honest and straightforward reply is almost always the best policy — unless the honest and straightforward truth is that you are doing something that you would have trouble defending. In the latter case, dissembling and hoping the issue goes away might seem attractive.

It’s nice that, by the time Lynn replied to Wigderson, WRIT was playing some religious Christmas music. Lynn never addressed the fact that our somewhat haphazard but frequent monitoring of the station from early Sunday evening through late Tuesday afternoon turned up no religious music, nor the fact that our very rigorous monitoring Tuesday evening produced the same result.

Clearly, radio stations have the right to play the sort of music they want. But equally clearly, citizens have a right to have a poor opinion of stations that make bad choices, whether it be censoring religious music during the Christmas season or playing the sort of rap music that encourages violence toward women and contempt toward the police.

And audiences have a right to tell stations what they do and don’t want to hear.

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