Baltimore's public radio stations seem to be giving the people what they want -- at least enough to keep the bean counters in Washington happy.
That's the news from Tom Thomas of Station Resource Group, a public-radio think tank that helped draw up minimum qualifications for radio stations that receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Public radio stations that don't meet those qualifications in the next two years could have their government funding cut off.
But the three here in Baltimore apparently have little to worry about.
"All of the stations in both the Baltimore and the Washington areas are in pretty good shape," he said, calling their relative good health "a reflection of the quality of the public radio we are enjoying in this area."
The regulations, which are being phased in to take full effect in October 1997, are designed to ensure that a significant portion of a station's potential audience is actually listening to it and that it is being supported financially by the community.
"It's very similar to the kinds of results-oriented evaluation that are happening all across the public sector," Mr. Thomas said. "There ought to be some minimum performance level [to show] the stations are doing an effective job."
The numbers themselves are fairly complicated and are more designed to show ratios than hard-and-fast numbers. For instance, to determine public financial support -- money coming from outside the government or sponsoring institution (in the case of WEAA-FM [88.9], for example, it's Morgan State University) -- take the number of dollars contributed by the private sector and divide it by the potential size of a station's audience (everyone within range of its signal).
If the resulting ratio is .18 or more, the station's in the clear.
Mr. Thomas would not reveal the ratios for Baltimore's three public radio stations, WJHU-FM (88.1), WBJC-FM (91.5) and WEAA. But he said all comfortably exceeded the minimum.
In fact, he predicted, few of the country's 1,000 public radio stations will run afoul of the new standards.
Only 60 to 70 stations, mostly in smaller markets, should be affected.
Dennis Kita, general manager of WJHU, applauded the new standards, saying stations that receive government money should be broadcasting what people want to hear.
"The fact that there are tax-supported sources for public broadcasting should not mean that money can be spent any way that the grantee chooses," said Mr. Kita, who came to WJHU in 1990. "It should be spent in a way that demonstrates it is giving something back to the public.
"It's important for all of us in public broadcasting that we provide service that's of value to the public, not service that we feel or some source feels is important."
Mr. Kita said WJHU receives about 20 percent of its annual operating budget from the federal government.
On the home front
The Golden Anniversary commemoration of the end of World War II may have come and gone, but the memories -- and the programming -- remain.
From 8 p.m. to midnight tonight, WWLG-AM (1360) and WASA-AM (1330) will broadcast the final four segments of "The Home Front: The Drama of the War Years." Parts 1 through 4 aired last Sunday.
"The Home Front" uses original music and voice recordings to re-create the era. Among the voices you'll be hearing are Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur and Tokyo Rose.
* Also on WLG and WASA, "A Valentine Special," featuring Tony Bennett, will air from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (OK, so it's a few days after Valentine's Day. Sue the station, not me )
For those who can't wait, or who need to see the melodious Mr. Bennett as well as hear him, the show will air live on the A&E cable television channel from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Valentine's Day.
Race car fans, turn your dials.
WXCY-FM (103.7) will broadcast 30 Winston Cup races this year, beginning with next Sunday's Daytona 500.
In addition, the station will continue airing "NASCAR Today" 8:50 p.m.-9 p.m. every weeknight, as well as "NASCAR Country" from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Sunday.
A friendly note to the local TV news anchor who earlier this week referred to Maryland senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sabranes (sic): It's Sarbanes.
Of course, he's been a senator here for only 20 years, so it's understandable you might not know his name.