The fight to preserve NPR’s funding isn’t over yet. The bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the president, so there are two hurdles to go. And according to last night’s Marketplace, individual stations will continue to receive at least some federal funding, they just won’t be able to use it to pay for NPR or any other national programming provider, like American Public Media or Public Radio International. So we may end up with more music because that can be programmed locally, without the need to go to NPR, PRI or APM for content.
What makes classical difficult to program is that a) you need staff who are knowledgeable about the genre, and b) you have to strike a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar. The familiar attracts listeners, but the unfamiliar is what makes classical radio truly interesting. ISTR, also, that the people who listen to classical music are the ones who tend to make larger gifts to the station. The Car Talk crowd also brings in money, but they make smaller individual donations relative to the classical music fans. (I don’t have a cite for this, but it was explained by someone who has studied this phenomenon.)
College radio can help fill the void, at least somewhat. But being a good disc jockey involves knowing the music you’re playing, and not many college kids are that knowledgeable about classical music. It may be possible for a music professor to host an hour-long show, but they’re busy or may not want to do it for other reasons. FWIW, KUSC in Los Angeles is a university-owned classical station. I get to listen to it whenever I have to call someone at USC. There are times I’ve been tempted to ask if I can be put back on hold to finish a piece, but then I remember that I was on hold for 10 minutes in the first place. At least the music makes me not mind that kind of hold time.