Jazz Fans Sing Blues in Protest at C-SPAN's Plans for WDCU

By Trugman, Kristan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Jazz Fans Sing Blues in Protest at C-SPAN's Plans for WDCU


Trugman, Kristan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A protest yesterday on North Capitol Street sounded more like a jazz brunch than a demonstration.

Three musicians - on bass, keyboards and saxophone - filled the air with jazz while protesters and passers-by in front of C-SPAN headquarters signed a petition against the sale of radio station WDCU-FM (90.1) to C-SPAN.

C-SPAN agreed to buy the jazz station two weeks ago from the cash-strapped University of the District of Columbia to convert it into the area's first 24-hour public-affairs radio station, C-SPAN spokesman Richard Fahle said.

While it might have been the most peaceful and pleasant demonstration ever in the nation's capital, the musicians and station supporters are serious in their efforts to keep the only station in the area featuring traditional jazz.

The demise of the format, which now has the fourth-largest black audience of any public radio outlet in the country, would have a cultural impact on the District, its supporters say.

UDC established the station 15 years ago to celebrate jazz in Washington, the birthplace of Duke Ellington.

"It's like taking part of the community and it hurts," Gaston Neal, 63, told Susan Swain, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer of C-SPAN, who ventured out of her office to speak to the protesters.

Mrs. Swain and other C-SPAN officials said it is unfortunate the city is losing the station that offers jazz about 18 hours a day, but said C-SPAN will be providing a public service with its political programming.

"It certainly has enflamed the passion of jazz lovers," Mr. Fahle said of the sale.

The $13 million sale currently is in a 30-day period, which began Aug. 15, during which the Federal Communications Commission is allowing public comment on the sale.

The deal marks 18-year-old C-SPAN's first venture beyond cable television.

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