KRCL 90.9 FM in Salt Lake City has recently changed their programming, trimming the morning and midday slots to open up a two hour block during morning drive time from 6:00-8:00 am. In that time slot, KRCL is now programming a syndicated show from NPR called World Cafe, and has begun to homogenize the rest of their daytime programming.
If a community radio station which is reliant on local donations to survive is going to program syndicated shows, those shows should be unique and important … airing content that is otherwise NOT being represented by local programmers.
For example, KRCL airs the syndicated show Democracy Now, because as a news show, it covers many important topics that generally aren’t covered via other media outlets, especially in Utah, and definitely aren’t covered by the local production teams.
World Cafe offers nothing different or better than the normal daytime programming from Jamie Gadette, Ebay Jamil Hamilton, and Bad Brad Wheeler, except a host who talks more, plays less music in general, and what music he does play is more commercial-oriented content often heard on commercial stations.
Spending money on syndicated content that is distinguishable from locally produced content only by its mediocrity is a waste of donations, whether those donations come from local individuals or local businesses. When I give money to a community organization, I want my donation dollars to stay *IN* the local community.
In addition, the daytime DJs are being driven to play more commercially "acceptable" music. Afternoon drive time is the station's most popular time slot. Much of this is due to the eclectic musical tastes of "Bad" Brad Wheeler who plays a unique mix of classic rock & blues, gypsy rock, rootsy modern rock, alt-country & Americana.
Needless to say, Brad's show has long been the most popular, and the biggest money-raiser for the station during the semi-annual fundraising radiothons.
In the past few weeks, the afternoon drive time playlists have become almost indistinguishable from those in the syndicated World Cafe show that is being broadcast during the morning drive time slot from 6:00-8:00 am.
These changes are being driven by new General Manager Vicki Mann, formerly of commercial radio juggernaut Clear Channel Communications, who was brought into the station in March, in the midst of KRCL's most successful fundraising radiothon ever. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune on March 22, 2012, Ms. Mann stated that she can be a "stabilizing force" who can "steer this station in the right direction."
Steering the station towards mediocrity and homogeneity is decidedly NOT the right direction. That's what commercial radio is for. Community radio is for the freaks and the geeks; for the music lovers who rely on their local radio station to discover new music that they can't hear anywhere else. Community radio is the alternative to commercial radio; it shouldn't strive to become commercial radio.
If KRCL is going to start programming more syndicated content, then the station should be giving us content that can’t be can’t be found anywhere else; shows which cover important topics and/or demographics but which aren’t being represented by local programmers.
KRCL should not be wasting our donations on homogenous and mediocre syndicated content, and should not be forcing the local programmers who make the station unique conform to an outsider's idea of what local listeners want.
Let KRCL know that we want our radio station back. We want eclectic and unique local programming. We want our DJs to have the freedom of musical choice, and we will vote with our donation dollars if we like what we're hearing.
KRCL's slogan has long been "All the radio you need". We need our old KRCL back.