If we believe in independent sources of news and other programming in a period when traditional media (TV news, major papers like the Seattle Times) are hollowing out.
Then we need to act.
And here is where you need to go: http://kplu.org/save-kplu
The basic situation has been described in this blog and the local media. Last year, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) decided to sell its public radio station (KPLU) and made secret plans to transfer KPLU to UW for seven million dollars. The KPLU staff would have been fired and and the 16-member KPLU news team would have been disbanded. KUOW, the other Puget Sound public radio station, would get KPLU's superior transmitters, a public radio monopoly in the region, and would maintain some kind of jazz presence on a secondary channel.
KPLU listeners were outraged as were many others. KPLU is a vibrant, popular station with roughly the same number of listeners as KUOW. It has an international reputation for quality jazz//blues programming and its award-winning news/local coverage is far superior to the fare provided by KUOW. KPLU has engaging hosts, extensive local and unique programming, and an endearing charm.
The negative reaction to the secret sale was widespread, intense, and effective. So effective that PLU and the UW agreed to put off the transfer for 6 months, giving a community group time to raise the 7 million dollars.
There are roughly 430,000 weekly listeners to KPLU. If everyone gave 20 dollars, it would be over, KPLU would be saved. But it never works that way. Many folks don't contribute and others need to do more. After two weeks, roughly $800,000 in pledges have been made, which is an excellent start.
If Paul Allen, Bill or Melinda Gates, Jeff Bezos, or one the fortunate hi-tech millionaires in town are reading this, please consider a major donation...that could make a huge difference.
An independent KPLU would not be just as good as it is today, it could be even better, unfettered by the constraints imposed on it by PLU. It would be deeply responsive to its listeners.
And then there is KUOW. Its leadership it still lusting after KPLU's superior transmitters and the potential to have a monopoly on local pledge money. Go to the KUOW's web site and they have all kind of information of how they are getting ready "just in case" and how excellent their offerings would be if they took over KPLU.
From the KUOW website.
KUOW even has a letter on its web site detailing what they would do if they took over KPLU....and it is very disturbing reading. Instead of keeping KPLU's beloved jazz programming and hosts, KUOW hired an outsider to design its jazz outlet. KUOW would hire four new news staffers, but KPLU has 16 reporters/new staff. The result? A loss of 12 news folks. And KUOW has no plans for additional local programming.
KUOW management is saying there is too much "duplication" in having two public radio stations doing news....which makes little sense. First, the news coverage provided by the stations is very different. Second, this is like the NY Post telling the NY Times to cease publication because they are both doing NY news stories. Competition is essential and makes everyone better.
This is a situation in which a failing, but money-rich, public radio station wants to take over a highly successful, popular, and superior competitor. Classic corporate take over. And I will let you muse over the ethical implications of the use of pledge money, acquired by telling listeners it was needed for keeping the lights on, and the turning around and using the money for a takeover.
And don't doubt that KUOW is failing. During the past few years, it has gotten rid of most of its local programming, such as the popular Weekday show, and replaced it with nationally syndicated pablum. KUOW listenership is declining, while KPLU's in increasing. Want the proof? Here are the weekly radio listenership statistics for 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2015 (I blanked out the middle two years because of the 2012 election, which skews the statistics). KPLU (blue) is up. KUOW (red is down). KING-FM (classical music) is up.
KUOW listeners are unhappy: read the comments on the Facebook site to get a taste of the discontent.
So instead of trying to buy regional dominance by killing the competition, KUOW should use it large financial surplus to greatly enhance its local programming, creating new offerings that are unique and regional. Start covering the UW with extended interviews with faculty and rebroadcasts of engaging lectures.
Fortunately, the future of our regional public radio is in your hands. Make a pledge towards building a new independent KPLU and the KUOW wolf will be kept at bay. Please visit: http://kplu.org/save-kplu
Don't worry little lamb. After I take over your assets,
things will be much better for everyone!