KUER’s New Format Gets More Money

Five months ago, John Greene’s name was a hiss and a byword to most of Salt Lake City’s classical music listeners.

In May, Greene, KUER general manager, received heat from the art community when he made the decision to cut all classical music programming from KUER’s format and replace it with local news and National Public Radio programming.

However, his decision proved to be financially prudent during KUER’s fund drive last week.

Monday morning, during NPR’s Morning Edition program, KUER received $13,000 from 200 donors.

“That was really remarkable. That much money in two hours?I was impressed,” Greene said.

The first fund-raiser under the no-classical format made this pledge drive extremely important. Without listeners’ pledges, KUER would not have enough money to support its operating cost. When Greene changed the format, many listeners promised to never pledge again.

But Greene’s decision turned out to help the bottom line, at least for this fall. Pledges totalled more than $123,000?KUER’s second best fund-raiser in history.

The large demand for news, created by the war in Afghanistan and the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, “definitely influenced” the large number of donations received, Greene said.

He admits the station lost 800 listeners/contributors, but the majority (5,000) are still listening. KUER also picked up 1,100 new donors with interest in local and national news coverage.

Greene never questioned his decision to adjust the format. The University Utah administrators didn’t either, but the state Legislature wanted to take a closer look at why KUER made the move.

Some representatives were concerned that KUER’s move was a step to put other public radio stations out of business.

Blaer Fuelner, owner of KCPW, a Salt Lake City/Park City public radio station, called KUER’s decision “predatory.” He feared that his company would be put out of business if KUER aired the same daytime NPR programs that his station does.

In June, disapproval of the format change sent University of Utah officials to the state Capitol to discuss the decision with Utah’s Information Technology Commission, made up of legislators.

Forty Salt Lake residents attended the hearing describing themselves as “former listeners.” They loudly interjected their opinions during the discussion.

Fuelner complained KUER’s change creates an unfair market because KUER also uses government support money to broadcast.

U officials found his argument appalling.

“KUER used NPR programming 20 years before KCPW even existed. Plus, KCPW also uses government funds to operate,” said Fred Esplin, vice president for university relations, in an earlier interview. “How is that unfair competition?”

The Daily Utah Chronicle was unable to contact Fuelner to find out how the radio station is doing financially.

Greene said KUER, satisfied with its format and listeners, will not consider changing its format back to including classical music.

[email protected]