How KUOW might have adopted KPLU with less controversy

There’s no scenario where selling KPLU to KUOW would ever be welcomed by many listeners.  And the secrecy and clear lack of understanding or respect for KPLU and its listeners have made matters worse. But it might have been possible to structure a combination in a way that objections would have been minimal.

KUOW could have earned the trust of KPLU’s 350,000 broadcast listeners (and 90,000 streaming listeners) by:

  • apologizing for the initial secrecy and announced that from this day forward there would be a public voice in the fate of the programming on the 88.5 signal
  • collaborating with leaders at KPLU and committing to creating a combined vision for the combined stations
  • pledging to bring as many of KPLU’s on-air staff as were willing to come to the new combined stations — by taking advantage of the loophole that allows UW to acquire research labs & teams in their entirety and bring them to UW
  • pledging to create a combined and expanded newsroom, bigger than what KUOW currently has, and use the additional reporters to create more in-depth reports, more sound-rich series, more local content and more diverse content
  • working to combine the best of KUOW and the best of KPLU — meaning that they would understand and learn from KPLU’s successes
  • pledging to maintain the jazz programs in their current format for at least two years (if not longer) and to engage with listeners before making substantive changes
  • pledging to maintain All Blues on Saturday and Sunday evenings
  • pledging to bring the amazing Saturday morning show “Sound Effect” (which captures the flavor of the Northwest in a way that represents the best of public radio, in the tradition of “This American Life” and “RadioLab”) from KPLU to KUOW intact — which would be a great addition to KUOW’s weekend line-up

These small steps alone would have muted a lot of criticism — and given some actual substance (and truth) to the empty claims by KUOW and PLU that the sale would lead to improvements for public radio listeners.

These steps also would make it more likely that KPLU listeners would bring their financial support to KUOW.

2 comments

  1. Joseph Losi · December 31, 2015

    Wow… in the mid 90’s, I as KPLU’s Director of Corporate Support, along with then KUOW’s Assistant General Manager Dana Davis Rehm, proposed a merger of the 2 stations that fell along very similar lines as this author’s suggestions. Talked between the two stations progressed. An award winning funding coalition “The Public Radio Partnership” was rolled out. It was very successful. But merger talks collapsed. If handled in the manner this posts author proposes the current debacle of a potential great merger of outstanding public radio stations would have been avoided. Perhaps the merger would have remunerated PLU for the PLU signal over an extended period of time. Many details to consider. But what was unrolled recently was very unfortunate.

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    • kplulistenerservices · January 15, 2016

      Hello Joseph,

      Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.

      KPLU believes a donation to the Save KPLU fund will help secure the station as a vital voice in Western Washington. Support will ensure the survival of an independent, local newsroom, hand-picked and professionally curated jazz and blues, and a continuing commitment to local music education. In addition, after the original announcement was made on November 12th that KUOW/ UW was purchasing KPLU, UW, PLU and KPLU received such an outpouring of concern that our donors were never given a chance to weigh in first that UW offered to step back and allow our listeners to fundraise. You can read the KPLU Community Advisory Council’s letter to PLU President Krise which explains KPLU listener concerns over the acquisition to KUOW, here.

      This means that PLU is going to sell regardless at this point– there’s no way around it– but now the public has an opportunity raise funds to keep KPLU intact and independent. Should the sale go through to KUOW, radio coverage will change for listeners throughout Western Washington (some of our listeners we serve have said they will no longer have the same reception as we currently provide to them for either news or jazz if KUOW purchases, based on KUOW’s current plans), signature KPLU programming and Jazz24 will end or remains unknown (popular programs like Birdnote, Sound Effect, All Blues, etc. may no longer air) and all KPLU staff/ reporters/ hosts will be laid off.

      We welcome you to read more about KUOW’s plans/ reasons for consolidation on their site here, and come to your own conclusion whether you support our efforts to keep KPLU intact or if you feel KUOW aligns more to your listener-supported preferences.

      Please know this kplu.org webpage will now be the central communications hub for all information related to the community effort. It will include an FAQ section that will answer the main questions people have at this time. We will also visually track the progress of the campaign on the site.

      We’re in the process of building a new, non-profit organization from scratch. This includes strategic planning, establishing governance structures and projecting future budgets.

      PLU is allowing KPLU’s General Manager, Joey Cohn, to lead the community campaign and the chair of KPLU’s Community Advisory Council, Stephen Tan, is lending additional leadership and legal support.

      This campaign is a huge challenge, but one we are excited about and know we can achieve because of the passion and support for KPLU from the many big-hearted listeners in our community. It is, indeed, our defining moment.

      After you take at look at our Save KPLU campaign webpage, please reach out if you have additional questions to our Listener Services staff at info@kplu.org, 1-800-677-5758. And thank you once again for your incredible support.

      Best to you,
      -KPLU Staff

      Like

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