Friday, May 11, 2018



We have been covering Brigham Young University’s decision to keep its successful and beloved Classical music format on KBYU rather than replace it with their nutty “Up With Mormon” 24/7 infomercial. The LDS-oriented programming will appear on another FM frequency recently purchase by BYU.

When KBYU’s plan to drop Classical was first announced, we and other observers speculated whether independent noncom KCPW [link] should have claimed the format.  That is a moot point now.

Spark News reader “Mark j” is concerned about the future of KCPW and he sent this comment:

“The question is: How long is KCPW going to continue with this futile attempt to do news-talk without NPR? Either rejoin NPR or flip to a music format that is cheaper to run.”

KEN SAYS: We are fans of KCPW’s GM Lauren Colucci. We published an article last September [link] praising her work to get KCPW’s financial house in order.

Then the March 2018 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings for Salt Lake City arrived and KCPW was a no-show. KCPW failed to reach Nielsen’s minimum listening criteria. Moving forward, we see these options for KCPW:

Lauren Colucci

1.) Stick to the current plan

Lauren Colucci is good operator who rallied various forces, including the Public Media Company, to save KCPW from financial ruin. 

The last time we spoke with Colucci she felt confident her plan is working, so give her the space to do it.

2. Look for situations where a news station without NPR programming is successfully competing with an established NPR News/Talk station

Wisconsin Public Radio’s (WPR) Ideas Network successful competes in Milwaukee with WUWM, a respected station that is similar to KUER in Salt Lake City. WPR’s Ideas Network in Madison on WHA-AM sometimes has more estimated weekly listeners than WPR’s News & Classical format on WERN.

The Ideas Network mixes locally produced talk programs with 1A, On Point and BBC World Service overnight. If KPCW can afford programs such as these, consider progressive talk shows like Stephanie Miller and Tom Hartmann.  Noncommercial stations can access these programs for almost nothing. In a super-conservative area such as Utah, these contrarian programs would likely get attention.

3. Find the weak spots of competing noncom stations and fill the void.

Triple A KRCL is doing a nice job of reaching boomers with vintage rock tunes. This might leave an opening for a current-based Alternative Rock approach.  Does commercial alt rocker KXRK need a noncom, community based competitor?

Also, there is no full-time Jazz music station in SLC.


We continue to receive reader comments about our assertion that WERS, Boston is the “top performing” college station in the nation [link]. This brings up the question: Is WERS actually a college station.

An anonymous reader sent this comment:

"Is WERS really college radio"? I think it's a valid question. "College radio" is more of a format and a management structure than anything else. WERS is different. They have a LOT of full-time staff [link to the WERS staff page] for a "college radio" station, eight, including a full-time morning show host.

[WERS doesn’t] really play the "underground alternative rock" or "freeform" formats typical to "college radio." They're pretty much formatted as triple-A with a handful of specialty shows. I don't think it's really fair to just call WERS "college radio." They sound nothing like several other stations, even in Boston, that everyone agrees are "college radio"[such as] WMBR, WZBC and WBRS.

WERS is a gigantic fish in a very small pond. To say they're the "best college radio station" is a little unfair to all the other stations.

KEN SAYS: Wow, I am glad you got that off your chest. First, I have clarify that I did not say WERS is the “best college radio station.” I said WERS is the “best performing college station” in an article about Nielsen Audio PPM ratings.  I can’t think of another college station that is doing better in the ratings.

I disagree with you about whether WERS is “college radio” for three reasons:

1. WERS is closely aligned with Emerson College’s media curriculum and most of the people who work at WERS are Emerson students.

2. Anecdotally, I have worked with quite a few WERS/Emerson graduates and they are impressive. Every WERS/Emerson alumnus I can think of actually graduated from college.

3. More college-based stations should emulate WERS. Most college radio stations are in life’s slow lane and aspire to nothing more than staying on the air. College radio needs to aspire to greatness, to be consequential.  That is what WERS does and I praise them for lifting the light high.


In our opinion, College Broadcasters, Incorporated [link] is the leading organization of college stations. CBI is participating in the College Media Mega Workshop at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis July 12 - 15.

This is intensive workshop is intended for top-level student managers and media advisers. It offers 11 different study tracks that examine the basics of operating a college station.

CBI says it is inexpensive to attend and, take it from someone who lives here, Minnesota is groovy the summer. We highly recommend this workshop.

More information is available here.


  1. Let me tell you right now Ken, that LDS Talk (aka "Up With Mommon" radio) will work in Salt Lake City, just as the Hawaiian musical styles work in Honolulu. These are formats are truly regional, and can only work in these respected communities. LDS Talk may not go top five but it will have a draw. KBYU-TV again is (and that will eventually become as of this comment) a was a Beta/Secondary PBS station. No harm done their since KUED 7 is the alpha/primary PBS station.

    KSFI also plays a longtime mix of Christian and LDS AC (maybe still some hymns and choral anthems) all Sunday long. This Sunday format is an institution...even during the times FM100.3 was not owned by Bonnville. This program is something something that their sister station KOSI in Denver can't do or other AC/Hot AC stations they owned over the years...but still can air "Music & The Spoken Word" however.

    Iheart Media used to a similar all day Sunday program as well when they had an AC station in the market which they dropped for Classic Rock...they even did a Saturday Night feature that was devoted to show tunes.

  2. Defining a radio station as a "college radio" station because it has students working at it and/or a college curriculum is not really a valid way of describing it. WZBC at Boston College has both a radio curriculum (well, it used to ten years ago...not sure if they still do but for purposes of discussion, let's assume there is) and is mostly staffed by students. Plus a cadre of community volunteers and a professional advisor.

    Yet WZBC and WERS couldn't possibly be more different stations. Different audiences, different audience sizes, different missions, different formats, different music, different facilities, different overall sound, etc etc etc. Yes, also different signals: WERS is markedly larger as a full Class B FM. But WZBC's Class A 1000w is right in the heart of the market and covers both the urban core and inner suburbs of Boston nicely. So you can't really put too much of the difference on the stations on their signals.

    There's tons of other examples. Look at WRAS and WRUR: owned by colleges and have student DJ's, yet are primarily identified as public radio stations because of their LMA's. (shrugs) Look at WBSU which is a factory institution for teaching radio to students (and is damn good at it) and operates very similarly to WERS (albeit with fewer professional staff) yet again it sounds nothing like what most people would consider "college radio". They sound like a professional rock station. Heck, WBUR is an NPR powerhouse but they have a lot of Boston University students working there. And there is a very strong communications & journalism progam at BU's College of Communication. Does that make WBUR "college radio"?

    BTW, I also know many WERS/Emerson alums, both personally and professionally. Generally speaking, Emerson does a great job teaching their students about radio and the kids who graduate come out well-taught. That's not in question here. But I also know many kids that come out of (again) WBSU at SUNY Brockport, WRHU at Hofstra, WSOU at Seton Hall, "WTBU" at Boston University, and "WLOY" at Loyola Baltimore (just to name a few) that also come out just as well-taught as Emerson grads. All very different stations, yet all based at colleges.

    This is what I mean: just because a station is based at a college doesn't mean it's "college radio".

    I don't think there is a true definition for "college radio" that covers all the bases. But saying I know it when I hear it is a far more unsatisfying answer. I suggest that "college radio" is defined by a combination of three things and only three things:

    1. The format of the content; a free-form or block-format station that skews towards more obscure.

    2. The airstaff are given near-total control over the content broadcast during their airshifts.

    3. The organization of the management structure of the station; primarily college-age (18-24YO) students in one or two year terms, filing specific roles as "directors" but usually as a "one man department" style. A professional PT or FT manager/advisor at the top is optional, but not uncommon.

    Even this is not perfect, but you'll find that most stations people think of as "college radio" will meet all three of the above criteria.

  3. FWIW, there is KZSB 1290AM in Santa Barbara, which is not quite co-owned with the local daily newspaper (the Santa Barbara News-Press) but functionally operates in tandem with it. For most of the day, KZSB broadcasts the BBC World Service. They compete against repeaters of several public/community radio outlets: KCLU, KCBX, KCRW, KPFK, KUSC and local college radio KCSB.

    I don't know how successful they are, though. The SBNP is known locally as the Santa Barbara Hot Mess because of controversial owner Wendy McCaw's significant meddling with the staff and content of the paper led to a huge lawsuit over unionization efforts about 10-12 years ago. McCaw is VERY conservative and allegedly was the first newspaper in America to endorse Trump's Presidential campaign.