Friday, February 3, 2017


Noncommercial Triple A music is generally considered to be a large market format. However, there are quite a few excellent Triple A stations in Nielsen Audio’s Diary markets. Now that RRC has released data for all of the subscribing stations, we have compiled two charts of stations: full-time music and dual format with NPR Newsmagazines. We are comparing Nielsen’s estimated weekly cumulative listeners for Fall 2016 and Fall 2015.


WNCW [link] is a cultural heritage icon that embodies the soul of the Appalachian Mountains. Its signal from Black Mountain, one the highest points east of the Mississippi River.It is a factor in at least four measured markets: Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville and Knoxville.

The station plays current Triple A favorites, blues, rockabilly, alt-Country and bluegrass. The ultimate WNCW artist is probably Gram Parsons. Other local favorites include Little Milton, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi.

WNCW began in the late 1980s and became nationally known in 1993 for its daily lunchtime tribute to Frank Zappa. WNCW still features Zappa’s recordings every week with Frank on Friday feature segments.

WNCW is licensed to Isothermal Community College in the town of Spindale (population around 5,000). There has been peace between the station and the college since WNCW became financially self-sustaining. 

According to disclosure documents on WNCW’s website, in 2015 WNCW operated with a cash budget of around $1.3 million. Isothermal Community College provides WNCW in-kind facility and administrative support.

In 2015 WNCW received approximately $576,000 from members, $569,000 from underwriting and $131,000 from CPB. The station's call letters “WNCW” stand for “Western North Carolina Window,” an apt description of the station’s mission.


Of the 12 full-time music stations four increased their estimated weekly listeners, at seven stations weekly listeners declined and WFPK’s weekly listeners remained the same.

WNRN: WNRN lost 22,000 (28%) of its estimated weekly listeners between Fall 2015 and Fall 2016. Losses occurred in three of the four markets they serve.

WMVY: In a recent comment, Aaron Read said that part WMVY’s gain may be due to an upgrade of the station’s transmission site.

KUMD: The steep decline is weekly listeners to KUMD may be due to new competition in the market. 89.3 The Current added a translator with nice coverage of Duluth and Superior. The Current has heavily promoted their presence in the market and originates a few Duluth area programs.


KCRW has always paid attention to reaching folks near Los Angeles. These markets outside of the LA metro in cities such as Palm Springs, Santa Barbara and Ventura. 

KCRW stresses the regional reach as an advantage for underwriters.

According to Nielsen Audio PPM estimates, KCRW had 616,000 estimated weekly cumulative listeners in the LA metro.

The map on the left shows the many repeaters and translators KCRW uses to reach as much of SoCal as possible.

KCRW is adding another full power repeater in a Nielsen Diary market: San Luis Obispo. A commercial operator, El Dorado Broadcasting, donated KJRW, 101.3 FM to KCRW in 2016.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Every four years we hear a lot about the State of Iowa when presidential candidates campaign across the state. After the caucus hoopla, there isn’t much about Iowa in the national news.

That is a shame because Iowa has many things going for it: a diversified economy based on agriculture, fast-growing cities, excellent higher education and Made-Rite loose meat sandwiches. Add to that list, Iowa Public Radio (IPR), an innovative public media organization that covers a big chunk of the state.

On the right is a composite of Iowa noncommercial stations that subscribe to Nielsen Audio’s ratings in four markets.

IPR was created about 12 years ago when the State forced a shotgun wedding of stations licensed to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Northern Iowa University. Each university had its own stations and traditions. WOI in Ames was a heritage ag station. KUNI in Cedar Falls was an aggressive newcomer led by visionary engineer Doug Vernier. WSUI/KSUI in Iowa City was so sleepy you could hear the snoring behind the programming. Here is a true fact about WSUI/KSUI: For the first 30 years they didn’t have on-air pledge drives.  They didn’t need to because the university provided all the dough.

The idea for “Iowa Public Radio” came from Bill McGinley, then GM of WOI, in 2004. McGinley did the statewide legwork to satisfy the State’s demand for a merged operation.  He was the leading candidate to head IPR – some folks called him The Bill Kling of Iowa. But, ironically, McGinley didn’t get the job.

Over the years since it was created, IPR has evolved into three discreet program channels: Studio One – dual format news and Triple A music, IPR News – 24/7 news and information, and IPR Classical.

However, IPR does not cover the entire state. It does reach the fast-growing metro areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo-Cedar Falls and the Quad Cities.  Missing are two rated metro areas: Omaha-Council Bluffs and Sioux City.


Studio One has a smart combination of NPR News, two excellent local talk and interview programs and contemporary music. Studio One benefits from being on two big-signal FM stations: KUNI and WOI-FM.

BEST OF IOWA #2: University of Northwestern’s CCM Stations

The University of Northwestern stations are major players in several upper Midwest states. Originating from the campus near St. Paul, three Northwestern FMs are the leading noncommercial broadcasters in Iowa. They don’t act like a K-LOVE chain store, each station has its own personalities, promotions and audience footprint. The university and its media program began in the 1950s with Billy Graham.


Though they don’t subscribe to Nielsen estimates, KFMG [link] has a substantial following in Des Moines. 

The 95-watt LPFM is creation of Ron Sorenson, a legendary Des Moines broadcaster who has been promoting “music discovery” in the market back in the early 1970s. 


Sorenson was the founder of the original KFMG, a commercial progressive rock station with a national reputation for breaking new artists. In the 1980s KFMG was sold to big corporate radio.   

Rather than play along with the corporate folks, Sorenson started a new KFMG on a noncom frequency in the early 1990s. 

That station was squeezed off the FM dial by religious broadcasters.

Sorenson and his associates then pursued the LPFM option. KFMG calls their music format "Eclectic Triple A” a mix of melodic rock, jazz, soul and reggae.KFMG emphasizes music by area artists. It is the center of the growing Des Moines arts scene.

KFMG is a small station that depends on a cadre of well chosen volunteers. 

Most importantly, KFMG is sustainable.  In 2015 KFMG’s annual revenue was around $86,000.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017


If you were working in public broadcasting in the mid 1990s, you’ve heard of David Horowitz. He was the guru of the Republican effort to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Horowitz was the author of Sen. Bob Dole’s “Big Bird” speech that caused chills at the 1993 Public Radio Conference in Washington, DC. Now he is back, courtesy of President Donald Trump and the man who has been called “Trump’s Brain,” Steve Bannon.

As you probably know, Bannon is/was the publisher of Breitbart News Network [link], the alt-right center of “alternative facts.” One of Breitbart’s primary thinkers and writers is David Horowitz.

How close are Horowitz and Steve Bannon? In November just after the election Horowitz wrote an op-ed titled “Steve Bannon: Civil Rights Hero” [link] for the Breitbart site:

“I can’t say enough about Donald Trump and his general, Steve Bannon.When the history of the 21st Century civil rights movement is written Steve Bannon’s name will have a special place in its pantheon of heroes.”

What many people don’t know about Horowitz is that some of his angst against CPB was caused by his own failure to become a successful public radio program host.


In May 1992, KCRW GM Ruth Hirschman (who later changed her name to Ruth Seymour) offered Horowitz a weekly program on KCRW in Los Angeles.  Hirschman felt public broadcasting needed conservative voices to help change the perception that NPR had a left wing bias.   

According to the Los Angeles Times [link], on May 15, 1992 Horowitz’s program Second Thoughts debuted. The program’s name came from the title of the book "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60s. The book’s author was Peter Collier, one of Horowitz's business partners.

Second Thoughts focused on what Horowitz perceived as the pervasive influence of leftists and liberals in American culture. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had launch an assault on public broadcasting.

At the time I was Director of News at American Public Radio (now Public Radio International) in Minneapolis. I was often the first point of contact for producers seeking to have their programs distributed by APR.

Ruth Hirschman contacted me in an effort to get APR to promote and distribute Second Thoughts.  Hirschman told me she was trying to "placate the people who want to abolish public broadcasting" by putting Horowitz on the air.

I listened to several sample programs and they were truly awful. Horowitz had a terrible radio voice, a whiny, menacing wail, that was certain to drive listeners away. Every edition of the show sounded the same: Public broadcasting is a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Topics that I heard in the sample shows included:

Why does NPR hype the Black Panthers?

Why are none of senior figures at NPR conservatives?

Why does PBS keeping attacking white people?

Second Thoughts spewed the same “alternative facts” that Breitbart News does today.

I told Ruth Hirschman that there was no way APR would be associated with Second Thoughts. The problem was not its politics, it was how it sounded.  She passed this along to Horowitz, who she said was livid about the criticism. Reportedly, he still stews about the denial of a national platform.

Second Thoughts continued on KCRW for a couple of years before Horowitz got bored and ended the program without a whimper.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Mark Ramsey
Folks in public media might not know that consultant and blogger Mark Ramsey [link] is as a major presence in Christian Contemporary Radio (CCM).  Ramsey has done extensive research on CCM listening trends and consults the trade group Christian Music Broadcasters (CMB). CMB is a noncom cousin of the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD).

Last week Ramsey revealed trends that he sees in the CCM world that have implications for other noncom stations. Ramsey cites two facts important takeaways:


• Over time, the magnitude of giving to CCM stations is steady or rising, but the total number of givers is declining.

• According to Ramsey’s research, the age of those who give is not just a little older than the age of the listening audience; in many cases it’s a lot older.


While some donors are more philanthropic than ever, they are masking the overall reduction in the number of listeners supporting the brand. Meanwhile, as the average age of the audience creeps up, the average age of donors is creeping up faster. That means donors are not only becoming scarce they are becoming increasingly unlike the audience for the stations they are supporting.

The key difference between the two groups is the way younger listeners perceive “free” and how that perception applies to their own giving. To illustrate, Ramsey tells this story:

Some time ago I sat with a young guy who worked for a well-known “growth hacker.” His job was to grow digital startups and do it cheaply and fast. I outlined for him the non-commercial radio model, which he was not familiar with.

He looked at me, utterly befuddled.

“You mean you want people to pay for something that they can otherwise get for free?”

Um, yes, I’m afraid that’s what I mean.

“Why would they do that?”

Ramsey’s bottom line: They are just listeners, not members.

In other words, younger listeners expect something more “than free music.” The compelling reasons older folks support noncommercial media, don’t generally click with younger folks. According to Ramsey, data shows older folks are more philanthropic than ever. Younger listeners aren’t so apt to give and support the brand.

If these trends continue, public media organizations that depend on philanthropy will become unsustainable unless other sources of revenue appear. Younger listeners want to perceive they are getting something back for their donation.

Here is Ramsey’s advice to Christian noncoms:

Christian non-com stations will have to think less about donations and more about membership, less about giving and more about experiences, less about one-brand-one-product and more about a portfolio of products and services, less about pledge drives and more about exchanges of value, less about listeners and more about community, less about broadcasting and more about participation.


A CCM station that excels in providing experiences to members is WJTL, based in Manheim, PA, near Lancaster.  Check out WJTL’s website [link] to see the many opportunities for listeners to become

 As you can see in the ratings, Harrisburg listeners appreciate WJTL in significant numbers. WJTL does equally well in two other Diary markets: Lancaster and York.

The Quad Cities are a little bit Iowa and a little bit Illinois. They are four cities – Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa; Rock Island and Moline, Illinois.  They straddle the Mississippi River to create a metro area of 350,000 people with many different loyalties. So, it is tougher to have a consensus in the Quad Cities.

WVIK is the long-time NPR News voice. Newish GM Jay Pearce has ‘VIK humming. Iowa Public Radio’s three program channels are a smaller factor.  The star of the Quad Cities continues to be WGVV, an independent Urban Contemporary, R&B and Hip-Hop station that always performs well in the ratings. WGVV provides an excellent example of how to serve younger, more diverse listeners via radio.

Monday, January 30, 2017


With all of the hoopla about the national election, you might have missed the news about the ongoing budget impasse in the State of Illinois. However, if you work at WSIU in Carbondale, you know all about the mess. 

For months Illinois lawmakers have been locked in a staggering budget impasse with no end in sight. Illinois is deeply in debt and there are stacks of unpaid bills. The standoff is a political war between the Democratic-led Legislature and the Republican governor.

At WSIU, CEO Greg Petrowich told the Daily Egyptian newspaper [link]: “The proposed cuts to WSIU would be ‘catastrophic’.” 

Greg Petrowich
A budget planning committee has designated WSIU as one of 15 nonacademic centers or initiatives at the university that could cut if state funds don’t arrive by the end of the fiscal year.

WSIU’s budget is about $3.5 million, $879,645 of which came from the state through SIU in fiscal year 2017.  Petrowich said WSIU could lose more than 25 percent of its funding if the legislature doesn’t act soon. Also federal funds are also at risk, because state money is leveraged for federal funds. WSIU could also lose 10% of its CPB funding.

According to disclosure data on WSIU’s website [link], WSIU raises more than $1 million in private revenue: $500,000 from members and $500,000 in underwriting.

Because operating expenses are mainly fixed, Petrowich said, WSIU would likely see layoffs if the state does act and the proposed cuts are implemented.


I am pleased to report that the Bluegrass Country Foundation has completed its agreement with WAMU to take over the Bluegrass Country program stream [link].

The deal means Bluegrass Country will continue to be heard on WAMU-HD2. 

The foundation also reached terms for FM translator W288BS 105.5 FM to continue repeating WAMU-HD2. The foundation officially takes over on February 6th.


WCAI continues to do very, very well in the Cape Cod metro.  As the Fall reports come in from RRC, we have been seeing a trend for big market news stations to gain estimated weekly listeners while local news stations show declines. That is not the case on the Cape.

WCAI solidly owns the news market despite full-power repeaters from Boston in their backyard. Its great to see positive growth for Triple A WMVY, a gem of a station.

It is hard to take the Nielsen audio estimates seriously for Eugene because they just don’t male sense. Even if there had been a sea change in listening between KLCC and KOPB, these numbers don’t make sense.

I hope stations affected will ask Nielsen and RRC about the in-tab data, etc. Something seems out of sync. Arbitron used to let subscribers see “the mechanical” – actual in-tab diaries – to see the data from its baseline. I did this a couple of times when I worked in commercial broadcasting.

Like Eugene-Springfield, Jefferson Public Radio’s three program channels are a factor in Redding. Best wishes to Beth Lamberson, the new-ish GM at KCHO in Chico.