PRESQUE ISLE – Maine Public Broadcasting Network officials said they came Tuesday to listen, and they heard plenty from a handful of Aroostook County residents upset about recent changes the network made in its radio programming.
It was the first of five similar meetings to be held across the state to solicit public comment on MPBN’s effort to include more of a mix of news, information and special music programs.
“MPBN does not feel like the old friend that I used to have,” said Terry Sandusky of Mapleton, one of about six people who came to comment on the changes.
Another half-dozen people represented the broadcasting network, including Charles Beck, vice president of radio programming, and Rus Peotter, MPBN vice president. Because of the low attendance, the 90-minute session was informal, with participants sharing their comments while seated in a circle.
Dana Allison, who moved to Aroostook County in 1965, said she missed classical music on the radio. When MPBN came on the air, she enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons and other classical and musical presentations during the week.
“I have listened to the Metropolitan Opera from time to time,” said Allison. “For the first time in years, I no longer have that option.”
Allison questioned how the broadcasting system plans to attract listeners with the replacement of afternoon music programs with talk shows that resemble “dorm room chatter.”
“Is it necessary to have the largest audience?” asked Phil Turner of Caribou.
Peotter explained that the network was attempting to keep its audience from becoming any smaller.
“My legislative person in Caribou won’t give you any more money,” said Turner. “In fact, he’ll give you less.”
Dr. George Higgins said he missed the weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcast on Saturday.
“Personally, I planned my Saturday afternoon so I [could] hear that broadcast,” Higgins said.
A stained-glass artist from Monticello, Marlene Hofstetter, said that she enjoyed the afternoon music programs while she worked.
“This really means a lot to me,” Hofstetter said. “In the afternoon, I don’t want to listen to talk.”
A member of the network’s Community Advisory Board, Nancy Roe of Presque Isle, questioned whether it was a north-south issue since the region has no other access to classical music.
Peotter said that recent mail from listeners is favorable to the changes, despite earlier complaints. “The tide has changed,” Peotter said.
A similar session was scheduled for Wednesday evening in Brunswick. Other public comment meetings are scheduled in Bangor today at the MPBN administration building on Texas Avenue; in Southwest Harbor on Friday at the Public Library; and in Waterville on Monday, March 5, at the Alfond Youth Center.
All meetings begin at 7 p.m.