The Twelve Tenors

Why South Florida public broadcasters spewed Domingo, Pavarotti, and Carreras out the proverbial wazoo

Sagastume says he interpreted the PBS recommendation as a command, and that had he correctly understood the directive he might well have chosen to run the show on another night. He points out, however, that simulcasting the Three Tenors on October 26 made perfect sense for WLRN because it came near the end of a ten-day fundraising drive at the radio station. "We were a little bit surprised to find the simulcast on WPBT and WDNA, because neither of them was in a fund drive at the time," he comments.

For his part, Craig Brush explains that although the timing didn't coincide with a fundraising drive, WPBT never considered airing the program at a later time or date. (The station solicited donations during the two-hour show.) WPBT had broadcast the first two Three Tenors concerts and "knew our viewers would be eager to see the most recent one," Brush adds.

Still, WPBT's decision to simulcast on WDNA seemed odd: The radio station, which is community-owned and not affiliated with WPBT, is principally known as a jazz station, specializing in Latin jazz. (WDNA recently began programming classical music, but only during the graveyard shift and only on a temporary basis.) The Three Tenors simulcast pre-empted the station's most popular music show Fusion Latina. "We always like to broadcast unusual things," reasons WDNA station manager Maggie Pelleya. "We thought it would be an appropriate thing for Hispanic Heritage Month to broadcast some classical music." Pelleya says the simulcast, for which WDNA received no money from WPBT, could presage more joint broadcasts between the two stations. "Hopefully in a more nontraditional vein," she adds.

Regardless of the official explanation, WPBT's choice of WDNA has fueled simmering rumors that WPBT is interested in acquiring the station. Both Brush and Pelleya deny the rumors and say the linkup was purely experimental: "A marriage of convenience," says Brush.

It could be argued that in their rush to beat each other out, WLRN and WPBT beat themselves. While the Three Tenors' first and second broadcasts reaped donations of $80,000 and $90,000 respectively for WPBT, the station tallied pledges of only about $28,000 during the October 26 show. Brush attributes the drop in WPBT's donations not to the competition with WLRN but rather to a number of other reasons, including the fact that the broadcast was up against Game 6 of the World Series, as well as a University of Miami football game that was aired on ESPN. "The Three Tenors also isn't unique, as it was in the past," he notes.

Meanwhile, WLRN radio received $4200 in pledges from its listeners (its television counterpart wasn't fundraising during the broadcast). "It was not as successful as we had expected," Sagastume admits, then hazards: "Maybe it had to do with the fact that other outlets were broadcasting it at the same time." He says he has already written a letter to Craig Brush suggesting that the two stations make an effort not to duplicate programming when they rerun the concert sometime next year.

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