KPFK to make 'urgent changes' in programming

All programmers at KPFK just received a long email from the boss asking them to either urgently grow their audience (and their money-raising for the station) or to voluntarily take their shows off the air or cut the length. "I along with the current management team see an urgent need to make changes in the programming in the afternoon, evening, and weekend," says the note from interim program director Alan Minsky. In other words, mornings are OK. Minsky hints at the fractious politics of KPFK's listener base, which may see this as a move against the Pacifica station's progressive bent. No specific shows are named, but some that air in the mentioned slots are among the most political. Many also are some of the longest-running programs on Los Angeles radio, such as The Car Show, Folk Scene, The Music Never Stops and Uncle Ruthie. Deadline L.A., the local media show hosted by Barbara Osborne and Howard Blume, airs Fridays at 3:30 p.m. The entire memo is after the jump.

From: Alan Minsky
Sent: Wed 7/21/2010
To: programmers; staff
Cc: Bob Conger; Jennifer Kiser; Alan Minsky
Subject: Important Letter to KPFK Programmers

Dear KPFKers,

We've reached a critical point at KPFK, as the painful length of our recent fund drive betrayed.

At the beginning of my time as iPD, I was instructed by the National Office to increase the station's listeners; in particular, as measured by the Arbitron numbers. This has occurred. Through the beginning of June, the listenership for the station had steadily risen from 120,000 before the fall 2009 programming changes up to a plateau of 180,000. This is great.

However, the increase in audience is weighted almost entirely in our Monday through Friday morning programming - in essence from 6am until 1pm - while 5pm is also substantially out-performing what was there before. With only a few exceptions, the afternoon, evening, and weekend programming is dramatically underperforming by this measurement.

Furthermore, this is true not only in terms of Arbitrons but also in fundraising - as we consistently have to pre-empt our afternoon, evening, and weekend programs in order to raise money. This is unacceptable. Lew Hill, Pacifica's founder, understood that listeners would pay for what they value; that compelling programming would elicit the financial support required to sustain such an ambitious media project and broadcast operation; that the ability to fundraise would necessarily be a factor in determining what shows remain on the air.

Indeed, the fact that so many of our shows are not contributing to fundraising for KPFK is a major factor in the unacceptable length of our fund drives.

Therefore, I along with the current management team see an urgent need to make changes in the programming in the afternoon, evening, and weekend.

In the next few weeks, we will be making some very hard decisions. We have about eight to ten new hours of Mission-driven programming that we believe will dramatically improve our listenership and our fundraising in the coming year. In order to make room for these new shows, we need some of the underperforming shows to step aside.

Therefore, we are asking all KPFK programmers to take a hard look at their shows and decide themselves whether they can make a positive contribution to the station by increasing their audience size and raising money for the station in fund drives. If you recognize that your show cannot make such a contribution than we, the management team, would encourage you to either:

1. offer to cut the length of your show (e.g. from one hour to 30 minutes a week)
2. move your show off-air to a web-based show available on KPFK.org
3. end your show

We will wait to hear back from programmers for one and a half weeks (until 07-30), after which time we will begin to make the decisions about which shows to cut back and which to excise in order to free up the time to introduce new programming onto KPFK Radio. Please reply directly to myself, Bob Conger and Jennifer Kiser.

This is a difficult process, but essential for the greater good and health of the station and foundation.


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