Wednesday, May 18, 2016


This week we are focusing on The State of Triple A Radio as noncommercial station folks, music companies and public radio bigwigs gather in Philadelphia for the 16th Annual NONCOMMvention [link].   

REMINDER: VuHaus will be streaming live from the 16th Annual NONCOMMvention Wednesday 5/18 through Friday 5/20. For more information: [link].


Yesterday we published a list of the Top 20 fulltime music, Triple A noncommercial stations, ranked by their estimated weekly cumulative listeners. Today we are taking a different look at the same 20 stations by examining their estimated annual operating budgets.

We have grouped the stations into three groups: Rich, Comfortable and On the Rise. Of course most Triple A noncoms operate with budgets far smaller than these 20 stations.  It is my opinion that one of major barriers keeping more stations from moving into the format is the lack help provided by the Richest stations to potential new stations.  These budgets show that noncom Triple A stations can bring in big bucks or at least be sustainable. But small stations don’t know where to start. 

Additional comments follow each group of stations.

The top four stations (WXPN, KEXP, WFUV and KCMP – 89.3 The Current) have the resources to hire high-quality professional staffs, create new programming and sponsor events for members and other listeners. Make no mistake, these stations have earned their success.

WXPN is the granddaddy of this group. It embraced fulltime Triple A music in the late 1980s and early 1990s with $1 million of seed money from CPB. We will explore this in a future story.

KEXP turned philanthropic dollars into bigger gold. WFUV wandered for years through folk, country and Americana formats. Then they woke up and now have the largest weekly listeners to a noncom Triple A station. 

There are two eras at 89.3 The Current: Before and after the arrival of PD Jim McGuinn. Before Jim arrived KCMP was an aspirational station that was “too hip for the room.” When KCMP started they had a morning show hosted by a couple of pals of Garrison Keillor. The music in the morning then was different from the music during the rest of the day.

Stations 5 – 14 have “average” public radio station budgets.  Most of the stations are CPB-funded. The average CPB-supported station budget is around $2 million. Most of these stations are successful but, as we reported in early April [link] WNKU may be put up for sale because of chronic budget shortages. 

Stations 15 – 20 are hoping to grow, particular the two new Colorado stations KJAC The Colorado Sound and KVOQ OpenAir and KTBG The Bridge. Without a doubt the station that does the best with less is WNRN in Virginia. We need more stations like WNRN!

1 comment:

  1. Have to be careful including WERS in this list. Their airstaff is still primarily Emerson College students, and there's still a radio class curriculum at the college. While Emerson would very much like WERS to be more financially successful, the underlying mission of the station is very different from most "public radio" Triple-A stations.