By Kelly O’Brien, President of the KUSP Board of Directors.
(This piece was also published in the opinion section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 4, 2015.)
Support by community leaders, listeners, volunteers and the general public make this fact irrefutable: KUSP 88.9 FM is a highly valued public service for the greater Monterey Bay Area. It is also clear that programing changes are necessary in order for it to remain an independent community resource. Through in-depth discussions, we’ve learned that KUSP must change in order to create a new and dynamic community media outlet.
The board of directors has adopted the recommendation of its well-respected consultant, Public Media Co., which is that KUSP must end the redundancy of news/information programming with KAZU in order to best serve the region. We believe this decision sets the stage for the existence of two compelling and complementary public radio services that deliver greater choice and greater variety to current and prospective listeners.
This is a pragmatic decision that expands creatively the local media universe. The greater Monterey Bay Area can support two vibrant and complementary public radio stations. KAZU offers a strong service built upon an NPR-based news and information service. KUSP has provided a very similar NPR service to its listeners with a growing audience since it switched to a predominately NPR news/information service in 2008. But with limited local media resources, we’ve asked ourselves this critical question: Wouldn’t our communities be better served by distinctly local, creative and exciting content?
KUSP is introducing programming that centers around eclectic music and music discovery. Eclectic, noncommercial music stations are rooted in their local communities, local music scenes and local arts and culture. No two public radio music stations of this type sound the same. KUSP music programming will be broad, deep and diverse, a true reflection of the greater Monterey Bay Area. The image is local, friendly, informative and personality-driven. We believe this is something at which KUSP will again excel, while acknowledging that there will be a transition necessary to get us there.
The key to success with this format is local involvement through local program hosts who are active in the community and visible at local events; contributions by listeners and music lovers; and local sensibilities expressed from across the listening area. The format is highly “elastic” — while rooted in music, it will enable KUSP to continue to deliver a thoughtful mix of local information, arts and culture to its listeners. These types of public radio stations reflect the fastest growing public radio format around the country and attract, on average, younger-aged listeners.
The shift represents a return to KUSP roots as a much-loved, independent, noncommercial music source with a distinctly local voice. It also ushers in a new era wherein we can leverage an exciting new format under new leadership in a way that reinvigorates KUSP. Our goal is to increase the relevance and sustainability of KUSP with radio and new media programming that reflects the deep and rich creativity of our region.
The board also has made a leadership change, naming Lee Ferraro as interim general manager. Lee has a great track record of transforming local public radio stations into financially secure, professionally run and much-loved media destinations. He brings demonstrated success with a locally curated music format to KUSP, having spent 16 successful years at WYEP in Pittsburgh, which he developed from a small, overlooked public radio station into an indispensable cultural institution.
Independent, local radio creating and reflecting all that we love about the area we call home. The construction hammers are out and we’re busy building a new and exciting KUSP that we hope you, too, will find engaging. We hope it pulls you in as a listener and actively engaged supporter.
We hope you will join us. Listen, talk to us, contribute in all the ways that you can. Change is challenging but we think this new future for KUSP is exciting. We hope you will think so, too.
Kelly O’Brien is president of the KUSP board of directors.