Friday, May 15, 2015


I welcome your comments and story tips.  If you don’t want to reach me via blogspot, my direct email is


Hi Ken, same commenter here. Thanks for the clarification on the Boston Today bit...sorry to be a nitpicker, though. :)

Second, I can't reveal myself on this. But I have direct access to Nielsen reports for our station's market, and they clearly show a HUGE boost beginning at the same time I happen to know a Voltair was added to the station in question (all on the QT and hush-hush, but I know the dates close enough to show correlation).

This is on more than one station, both public and commercial radio. In one case, the boost is roughly 50%. Some hours are seeing a 400% increase, some more like 0 to 10%. But several hours across the week are seeing 50-60% increase in AQH and, and 20-30% increases in cume. I'm told that this is not atypical for Voltair installation. However, for some customers of Voltair, the increase is nowhere near that dramatic. It entirely depends on the individual station's situation. However, that merely reinforces the problem [with] Nielsen PPM.

KEN: Thank you for this first-hand inside information.  I take what you are saying seriously. Voltair is different from other ratings boosters because it potentially messes with data collection method.  I don’t think the use of Voltair makes Nielsen Audio’s PPM data unreliable.  I’ve been waiting to see reaction from commercial advertising industry – the folks who really, really count at Nielsen. Please keep me informed on what you are seeing.


Wasn't there a big effort for KAZU and KUSP to merge operations a while back? Stop beating each other up and save a lot of operational costs? Whatever happened to there a "cut off nose to spite face" thing going on here?

KEN: I also heard about the merger talks.  According to my sources, KAZU dropped their interest in KUSP because they felt no one at KUSP could make a decision.  Consider this statement from Terry Green that I included in the original post:

Under our bylaws and California law that group of people (key volunteers and employees) would need to approve any organizational merger or assignment of substantial assets of our licensee.

This kind of organizational paralysis is one of the biggest negatives of community radio.  You certainly want to talk with the paid staff and volunteers before making decisions.  But letting them all vote on a decision, as your station is on the edge of bankruptcy, is folly.  I managed a noncom station in California and I’ve never heard of the state law you mention.  Typically, the people responsible for a nonprofit corporation are only the officers of the corporation.


So HD's bringing listeners more stations - more choices to the terrestrial masses. What's your complaint? You didn't think radio was all of a sudden going to try to appeal to anything beyond its lowest common denominator audience just because more channels opened up, did you?

And why would audiences buy HD radios when they can have handheld computers that make phone calls and receive 20,000+ stations? Even satellite radio makes more sense than HD reception-wise.

FM is for lazy folks who haven't made the effort to log in to the good stuff. Wishing for that to change is just tilting at windmills. LPFMs are expensive webstreams that will eventually shed their pricey transmitters and go where the audiences are going. Online.

Thank you for this excellent comment.  I agree with most of what you are saying. Here is the point I am trying to make about broadcast radio:  It is now part of the media mix – multichannel and multiplatform menus -- and it probably will be for quite a while.

The media mix includes any and all of the ways PEOPLE communicate including the earliest methods: Smoke signals and prehistoric cave wall drawings. Platforms ebb and flow but they almost never go away.

Your analysis is all-or-nothing logic. Reality is somewhere in between.  It’s true that radio listening continues to decline around one to two percent per year.  There are still lots of listeners, lazy of not, because they like what radio offers them.

Broadcast audio has some advantages over online and mobile media:

1.            It is free, ubiquitous and often covers large populations and big areas.

2.            It is a real-time medium that can be incredibly immediate, particularly when you really need it.  Radio still works when the power is out or the chord is cut.

3.            Nobody can track listeners of broadcast signals. Radio is a perfect covert medium because it leaves no footprints.

4.            The FM spectrum will not be replaced in the US by digital radio.  HD Radio is failing and no one is talking about an alternative. Norway can shut off its FM because they have a robust digital radio system that isn’t UBOC.


Ira Glass wrote a nice op-ed for Current. I’ll leave the angst about whether Ira has sold out to others. My only concern is that the stations be included in the success of his outside ventures. After all, the stations provide This American Life its weekly audience of a couple of million people.

Ira didn’t mention this in his blurb but he should keep it in mind because the stations have leverage also.  This is comment I received from the manager of one of the biggest NPR stations in the nation:

How ironic that TAL expects free air time for podcast promos. Not that long ago, Torey Malatia [former GM of WBEZ, now an exec at TAL] stripped out the NPR Store promos from Morning Edition on WBEZ. So he will understand when we zap his podcast promos.


  1. Regarding KUSP bylaws and what you referred to as "one of the biggest negatives of community radio."

    Laws in many states protect association-based nonprofits from wanton takeovers and rogue boards. KUSP's situation may be the downside of this, but the upside is that licenses that were acquired with the sweat and blood of community members (volunteers) to serve certain purposes are protected from those with other agendas.

    I helped found a community station that had "Swiss democracy" bylaws, and once we obtained our license, I convinced our membership that the best way to protect the license was to turn over the station's management to the board. Unfortunately, the board changed from founders (not a rag tag group by any means) to include so-called community leaders. Within nine years of our going on the air, the board was ready to turn over the station to the local PBS affiliate. As it turned out, our association's bylaws retained enough rights for our members that we were able to take the board to court and stop the takeover. One local newspaper ran this headline: Merger Dead, Bullies Flee.

    I've always felt that one of the great things about America is that people can get together in their living rooms and start a Little League, a fund drive or in our case, a community radio station. One of not so great things is that when grassroots efforts yield success, the corporate wolves show up at the door and want the keys claiming they can make the resource more effective and more profitable. What they really want is the power and control to re-purpose the enterprise to suit their definition of success.

    Don't mock Milam. He may not have had all the right prescriptions, but ultimately he was right.

    P.S. JohnHerald is a handle. For various reasons - one of which is I'm still on our board fighting the good fit - I must remain anonymous.

    1. Thank you for attempting to set Ken Mills straight regarding Lorenzo Milam. Back in the early KUSP days, wen I was the manager of Pacifica’s newly acquired WBAI, I had many lengthy discussions with Lorenzo. He was way ahead of the game and—as you point out—he was right.

      WBAI is but a blurred fading image of its former self. The same can be said of Pacifica Radio, and the the plunge that surely is about to end that once noble organizations existence is not attributable to the concept Lew Hill had seventy years ago, but—in large part—to its abandonment by opportunists on all levels.