In what some observers are calling a “bonehead move," Brigham Young University (BYU) near Salt Lake City will be dropping it’s Classical music format and will switch to what appears to be a 24/7 infomercial for the Mormon Church. The change is scheduled to happen as of June 30, 2018.
The FM move is part of a larger reorganization of BYU’s broadcast properties. KBYU-TV, for many years a public TV station, will drop all PBS programming on the same date.
The TV changes make some sense. KBYU-TV has unsuccessfully tried to compete for PBS viewers with KUED-TV. But KBYU-FM – Classical 89 – has no direct competitor and has been airing Classical music for almost four decades.
The chart on the left shows baseline stats for the four major Salt Lake City noncommercial stations. According to Nielsen Audio, Classical 89 had an estimated 122,300 weekly listeners in the August 2017 PPM ratings.
Soon this huge audience will be up for grabs.
Some observers are speculating that this might be an opportunity for KCPW to become the Classical voice for the market. KCPW’s signal is not as large as KBYU’s, but it does cover the city and first-ring suburbs very well.
In September we published an in-depth feature story about KCPW and it’s dynamic manager Lauren Colucci [link]. In a telephone interview, Colucci said it is too early to tell what KCPW might do:
When I heard the news I was as surprised as everyone else. Nobody saw this coming. We are happy with what we are doing now but obviously a lot of listeners will be disenfranchised.
BYU's SPIN: “This is not the Baltimore Colts leaving town in the middle of the night.”
The quote above is by Michael Dunn, the managing director of BYU Broadcasting. Dunn tried to put a happy-face on the FM change in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune [link]. Dunn told the Tribune that the remove Classical music is part of BYU’s strategic plan. After the change, KBYU-FM will simulcast programming that is now available on Sirius XM and online channels. Dunn said:
“It’s tough, because it involves some broadcast properties that are much-loved. It’s going to cause some consternation. And I’m sensitive to that. But in this digital era, there are so many resources for classical music that it just really doesn’t make sense to maintain the status quo at KBYU-FM.”
“One of the few pressures we don’t have is monetization pressure. Our clarion call is to do better work.”
Folks posting comments on the Tribune’s website saw different motives:
Comment One: Headline reality: Theocracy 'bean counters' pull plug on PBS and classical music, so that BYU TV/Radio may be dedicated to pay, pray, and obey core mission of the profits.
Comment Two: There is the real issue right there. Now they can do whatever they damn well please to do. It could be…intermittent blasts from the past, such as the wisdom of Ezra Taft Benson on race relations. Or…whatever it is that Glenn Beck does or says that particular day. I will miss, however, the classical collection and the informed musical guides on KBYU.
WHAT THE NEW KBYU-FM 89.1 WILL SOUND LIKE
The plan is to broadcast programming now heard on BYU’s SiriusXM channel 143 [link]. Here are some examples of what Salt Lake City listeners hear (and I am NOT making these up):
• The Matt Townsend Show
Listen to this daily 9am to Noon call-in talk program featuring a host that specializes in energizing and involving audiences to maintain successful relationships. Townsend blends humor and story telling with interactive, real-life solutions that motivate and inspire his listeners.
• Eyres on the Road
Hosts Richard and Linda Eyre are world-traveling family coaches. Their common-sense approach to parenting brings hope and encouragement to parents everywhere.
• Highway 89
Listen to broadcasts from the new state-of-the-art BYU Broadcasting complex’s BYUradio Performance Studio. Talented musicians and performers from across the campus and around the globe, play live mini-concerts for the BYU Radio audience and are interviewed by our hosts between the music.
• Thinking Aloud
Host Marcus Smith brings you thoughtful, educated voices from the Brigham Young University community. Join Hear exclusive interviews with scholars, students, and campus guests on a broad range of topics.