By Kelly Wolfe
Loyal WXEL listeners said they were not pleased to learn their favorite public radio station was sold in April to a Miami classical music station.
“I just think it would be a tremendous loss,” said Marna Hirshhorn of Delray
Beach. “I love classical music to death, but I don’t want it to monopolize the
WXEL’s community advisory board hosted a forum in May, where volunteers and listeners
came to speak out against the station’s sale to Classical South Florida and the
drastic change in programming.
“Think of the scope (offered now),” said Hirshhorn. “We have classical to jazz to
medical to Car Talk to local and
WXEL has been operated by Barry University since 1997, when the university stepped
in to keep the beleaguered station from closing. Barry put the station on the
market in 2004. In April, nonprofit Classical South Florida said it would buy
the radio station for $3.85 million in cash.
Before money changes hands, the license transfer has to get the approval of the
Florida Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission. So
far, the sale isn’t on the board’s agenda.
Pablo Del Real, chair of WXEL’s Community Advisory Board, said the board does not support the license transfer.
“They are trying to squeeze money out of a community asset,” Del Real said of Barry. “But the community wouldn’t be compensated by the transaction.”
Technically, Del Real said, the radio station is public and therefore can’t be sold. The money is for the building, towers, transmitters and other assets, he said.
Because the station is owned by the community, the community should have a voice in the
license transfer. He said the Board of Education and the FCC will hear public
comment before approving the measure.
“We support local owners and a local board,” Del Real said.
Jason Hughes, spokesman for Classical South Florida, was not available for comment by
press time. Classical South Florida is owned by American Public Media, which
also owns Minnesota Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio.
Classical South Florida has been broadcasting since 2007.
Despite its radio street cred, listeners said they don’t want Classical South Florida playing from the speakers once occupied by WXEL.
“I’m afraid if they go ahead with this sale, (WXEL) will disappear,” said listener Robin Swan of West Boca. “Once something goes away, it’s gone.”