The big problem is that music has been progressively dumbed down over the years, and not just at WNYC. Talk about music has replaced music itself, or the music is guitar sonatas and easy-listening favorites, background noise that drives away serious devotees. The public can judge quality. If you cheapen a product enough, eventually no one will want it. It is no surprise people have stopped tuning in.
As someone who’s often felt the urge to call up stations in Boston and Washington and yell at them to find something in a minor key, or with a chorus, or written before 1780 or after 1880, I’ll confirm Kimmelman’s observations. But this isn’t the whole story. The dismemberment of “Performance Today”, one of the refuges of unique, challenging, and interesting classical music performance, shows that classical music has someone actively gunning for it. [Disclaimer: I’ve been on “Performance Today” as part of the Virginia Glee Club.]
I’ll also note that the disappearance of jazz stations should have served as a warning. But we were all tuned in to Rush, Howard, and even “All Things Considered” to notice.