The KUSP Board of Directors approved several significant changes to our station’s schedule and programming strategy at their board meeting last night. These are the first large-scale changes to KUSP’s schedule in about five and a half years. Most changes will go into effect on September 1.
The most significant change adds more news and information programming in the middle of the day Monday through Friday, where right now we run a mix of different kinds of music programs. This will put news, talk and information on the air weekdays from early in the morning through the end of the afternoon commute.
Classical music will continue on the schedule weekday evenings and jazz will follow later at night, as happens now, but these programs will extend across the whole week, from Monday through Friday (rather than Friday being different from the other weekdays). We will also begin featuring our On-Site live and recorded concert performances (music festivals, local symphonies and chamber music groups, and so on) on Friday nights, instead of late Sunday morning.
The news, talk and entertainment shows that air on weekend mornings will extend a little longer into the day, and be followed on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon by music with kind of a global flavor (we’re still working with our program hosts to plan out exactly what that will sound like; we have three different kinds of “world music” programs on Sunday afternoon now, and a Celtic music show on Saturday afternoon, so this may not be that big of a change).
Saturday nights will have more of an upbeat kind of rhythm musically, and Sunday night will continue much as it is now, with interview and cultural programs in the early evening, followed by jazz.
KUSP will broadcast all of NPR’s news magazines (like Morning Edition and All Things Considered) seven days a week, so you’ll never be too far from an update on world events from what I think is clearly the best broadcast news organization in the U.S.
The part of the decision that provoked the most discussion and controversy involved very late night programming (after midnight), which is now a decidedly eclectic mix of music and talk (and some dead air when we have no volunteer program hosts). In the end the board determined that we need to re-evaluate how we use this air time, hoping that we can evolve it into a more effective laboratory for creative radio programming (something that we were also exploring for web-only content at kusp.org).
The changes emerge from many months of discussions with listeners and seven full-scale surveys about public radio listening in the Monterey Bay area. We learned a lot about how people use public radio, and what they wish could be different. Listeners reinforced the message that they value both news and music on their public radio stations, but attach more importance to the news and information that we provide. There’s more of a preference by listeners for news in the daytime, for music in the evenings, and a mix of news, talk and entertainment to start the day off on the weekend – and we think this updated schedule will fit those preferences.
The schedule retooling on our main over-the-air stream won’t mean the end for all time of the kinds of programs that are coming off the schedule right now. We plan to offer more content than before on kusp.org, produced by more people in our community. This is a critical part of our RadioEngage on-line project, which I’ve written about before – opening up the pipeline for creative kinds of radio so that we’re no longer constrained by the kinds of conventions that have grown up over the nearly sixty years since KPFA pioneered this kind of broadcasting (as in, you have to be willing to come in at 3 AM to get air time for something radically different).
We’re also continuing to pursue multiple over-the-air streams of programming, and will in particular explore whether we can develop a full-time stream of music that would generally parallel what we’ve been playing on “The Open Road,” the weekday music show that debuted in 2003 and wraps around our “Live at Lunch” in-studio music segment. There’s several different ways that second stream could get out to our listeners (including Internet streams and HD Radio digital broadcasts), and we’ll be evaluating all of them.
More generally, we’ve vowed to do careful and extensive listening to listeners about their specific kinds of music preferences. We discovered in the last year and a half of work that it’s easier to reach general conclusions about public radio listener preferences in news and information than it is about music. But music is very important to us – it’s always been a vital part of KUSP – and we want to make our music programming as relevant and important to you as it can be.
For a while today the Santa Cruz Sentinel was reporting on their web site that KUSP was dropping all local music programming; this was not true, and was apparently pulled off their site later in the day. Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord interviewed me this afternoon, along with two other members of our board of directors, and we’re told a story will run in the Wednesday 7/30 edition.
In a few days we’ll have worked out more details of our new over-the-air schedule and we’ll share them with you and the local news media as soon as we have them.
Please take the opportunity to share your thoughts about our changes with me as they get underway!