WGBH will buy classical radio station WCRB

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From The Boston Globe

Public TV and radio giant WGBH will buy one of the country’s few remaining 24-hour commercial classical radio stations, WCRB 99.5 FM, station officials said today.

WGBH officials would not disclose the price, saying that the deal had not been reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission. WGBH already operates the radio stations WGBH 89.7 in Boston and WCAI and WNCK on the Cape and islands.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity,” said WGBH spokeswoman Jeanne Hopkins. “It comes along rarely and we felt able to make the acquisition work financially and in every other way.”

The move comes less than two months after WGBH said it would lay off employees because of projected budget shortfalls in 2010. WGBH has seen revenues from viewers, corporations and foundations diminish.

Hopkins said officials at WGBH had not yet decided on a format for 89.7, or how WCRB will interact with WGBH’s own classical music programming, which airs most mornings. Asked if there could be more layoffs, Hopkins said it was too early to say what the change would mean for employees at both stations.

WCRB, headquartered in Waltham, has a storied reputation in New England as “Boston’s classical station.” Broadcasting for more than 60 years, the station has 340,000 listeners weekly and is owned by Nassau Broadcasting Partners LP, a New Jersey company that owns 52 stations, mostly in the Northeast. Nassau purchased WCRB from Greater Media in 2006.

Officials at Nassau could not be reached this afternoon.

WGBH said it will finance the purchase by beginning a capital campaign donation drive called Keep Classical Alive.

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