Wednesday, September 27, 2017


In June we reported on Classical music station KHFM, Albuquerque’s pending change from commercial broadcasting to noncommercial status [link]. KHFM has now completed the transition and fans are celebrating. 

KHFM was owned by commercial broadcaster American General Media. The company recently purchased four additional commercial stations in the Albuquerque area. The new stations put American General’s cluster one station over the FCC’s limit, so the owners decided to donate KHFM to a nonprofit organization but still keep it in the family, so to speak.

American General is donating KHFM [link] to the American General Media Foundation (AGMF), a nonprofit doing business as KHFM Community Partners. Rogers Brandon, the CEO of American General also controls AGMF. This cozy relationship, but Brandon'st love of classical music made it happen.

Brandon told the Albuquerque Journal:

Rogers Brandon
“We love KHFM. It is a valuable part of our investments in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We felt the community was going to be much better served with KHFM as a non-commercial station and not as one competing in the commercial radio market. As a non-commercial, KHFM becomes a collaborative part of the arts community. It can provide more support for the arts, which is the mission of Community Partners.”

Of course, American General is not the first company to realize that Classical music on the radio does better in a noncom environment. Commercial stations need younger listeners in order to sell time.  As a noncommercial station, listeners support the station directly with memberships, underwriting announcement and attendance at station events. So, at noncoms, the age of listeners is less important than their willingness to support the station.

KHFM is licensed to Santa Fe, NM
KHFM is yet another commercial Classical station to switch to noncommercial services. Other stations that have made this move include WQXR, New York; KDFC, San Francisco; WCRB, Boston; KING, Seattle and WCLV, Cleveland.

There are now (to the best of my knowledge) three commercial Classical stations remaining: WFMT, Chicago; WRR, Dallas and WFCC, Cape Cod. WFMT and WRR are both operated by noncommercial licensees, so WFCC may be the last, ad-supported Classical station in the nation.

There are now at least seven major markets without a Classical music radio station: Miami, San Diego, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Hartford.

Four major markets have part-time Classical stations: Philadelphia (WRTI), Detroit (WRCJ), Kansas City (KANU) and Indianapolis (WICR).


Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) told a Fort Myers TV station last week that he wants the government to require that smartphone manufacturers to activate the FM chips in their devices. The inability to tune-in FM signals has been an irritant to broadcasters since Apple started marketing smartphones a decade ago.

Nelson is pushing for the move now for public safety reasons. Once again, radio stations played a vital role during a natural disaster when Hurricane Irma battered Florida. One constituent told Nelson:

“When power was knocked out, along with cellular and internet service, our mobile devices were useless. I know a lot of people who were running around trying to find a battery-powered radio at the last minute.”

Currently there is no legal avenue to force manufacturers to activate the chips, so Nelson wants the FCC to act.

There is a tiny chip buried inside of many smartphones that can access radio signals. Nelson said Samsung, AT&T, and T-mobile favor the requirement. Apple is against the proposal.


  1. I applaud Senator Nelson's efforts. Until a few weeks ago, I was ambivalent about the necessity of FM radio in smart phones. Being in Fort Myers, directly where Irma hit, it became clear it's something that's not only needed, but in demand from consumers. The power went out for most people, as did the cell networks for a few days after the storm. Radio was the lifeline for folks who lived here, whether they listened to my station (WGCU) or to the commercial stations on the air simulcasting the TV networks.

    I loaned out a few of my battery powered radios to my friends and neighbors because, these days, it's tough to find a battery powered radio! But most everyone has a cell phone, and it's enabled in my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It works, and it should be something consumers should have.

  2. I forget the call letters, but in the San Diego market isn't there a non-commercial classical station on the Mexican side of the border?