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Classic KING-FM is shifting to a listener-supported model

Much will stay the same, including the board and the format, but on July 1, 2011 the classical music station will shift to underwriting and pledge drives. The arts beneficiaries will stay in charge but no longer have cash dividends.
One of KING-FM's signature programs in the afternoon rush hour.

One of KING-FM's signature programs in the afternoon rush hour. KING.org

The board that oversees 62-year-old classical music station KING-FM has decided to convert the commercially-operated station to “listener-supported” public radio format.

The change will take place July 1 next year, when an ad sales agreement with Fisher Communications expires. At that time, the station will stop airing 60-second commercial “spots” and will switch to 20-second “underwriting announcements” and occasional listener pledge drives, much like those currently heard on local public radio stations KUOW and KPLU (and already heard on KING-FM’s web streams and HD channels). The station won't carry NPR headline news.

As reported earlier by Crosscut, KING-FM has been coping with declining revenues. In September it laid off several staff members. The station also notified its beneficiaries — ArtsFund, Seattle Symphony, and Seattle Opera — that it would not be paying a dividend for the foreseeable future.

Since 1995, KING-FM had split its profits among the three groups as part of a unique ownership arrangement that kept the station in local hands following sale of KING Broadcasting’s other Pacific Northwest radio and TV stations. Up until last year, KING-FM had generated a cumulative total of nearly $7 million for the three groups, but annual dividends had declined since peaking in 1999.

Board president Chris Bayley and station general manager Jennifer Ridewood point to changes in the media landscape and shrinking commercial revenues as reasons for making the switch, as well as the success of classical stations in other parts of the country that have recently adopted the non-commercial model.

The switch requires IRS and FCC approval, and Ridewood says KING-FM has engaged attorneys to assist with both processes. The station has been advised to create a new, educational-mission-driven, not-for-profit entity to avoid possible tax burdens associated with a traditional radio station sale, and the FCC must formally approve the switch to non-commercial operation of the 98.1 FM frequency.

KING-FM has also engaged fundraising consultants and will work to raise $2 million for what they describe as a “Legacy Campaign.” Bayley says, “Two-million dollars will fund operations until the whole system of listener support is running smoothly. We can’t just turn a switch.”

Ridewood says that based on other stations’ experiences, it may take as long as five years (from July 1, 2011) for KING-FM’s listener-supported arrangement to become stable and self-supporting. KING-FM’s current annual budget of $2 million is projected to increase to $3 million, as the station will hire fundraising staff to coordinate corporate underwriting (which will replace the ad sales function currently handled by Fisher Communications) and solicitation of individual donors via web, mail, and on-air pledge drives.

Listeners should notice a big difference come July 1 next year, with more music, fewer interruptions and no more jarring commercials for mattresses. Ridewood says that the station currently plays 11 60-second commercials per hour, and in the new arrangement will instead play only “four or five, 20-second underwriting announcements” during the same period. While current KING-FM advertisers are likely targets for becoming underwriters, the agreement with Fisher prevents KING-FM from directly soliciting those companies until April, 2011.

In addition to underwriting announcements, Ridewood says KING-FM will likely have three on-air pledge drives a year, lasting roughly a week. Pledge drives would include a mixture of music and “asks,” according to Ridewood.

As for the cash contributions once enjoyed by KING-FM’s three beneficiaries, Bayley and Ridewood say that the new non-commercial KING will conduct more outreach and have more airtime available to promote local performances (in the form of free underwriting announcements) and for more local programming, including live broadcasts. Thus, the cash that once directly supported ArtsFund (for distribution to smaller musical organizations), Seattle Symphony, and Seattle Opera is being replaced by promotional benefits with less direct impact.

In spite of this, the board — which includes representatives from each of three beneficiaries — voted unanimously for the switch. “They see that this is the way for the station to survive,” Bayley says. He also says the vote reflects the board’s priority to keep KING-FM viable as a classical music station per the wishes of KING-FM founder Dorothy Bullitt, and Bullitt’s daughters Harriett Bullitt and the late Priscilla “Patsy” Collins. Harriett Bullitt is described by KING-FM as “embracing” the station’s switch to non-commercial.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Mar 24, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

I am from Portland where we have had listener-supported classical radio. There is little doubt that this format is superior to a commercial one. Nevertheless, we have experienced some significant downsides. One of the more significant is the requirement of pledge drives. They used to be pretty low key and quick down here. However, with the rapidly escalating budget at KQAC, the pledge drives have gotten longer and more aggressive. The last two have gone beyond the allotted 10 days and the one last fall fell short of the $500,000 goal ( a lot of money to raise a few dollars at a time.) While business underwriting ads are preferable to commercials, it too has a significant effect on what is played. The necessity to get those brief quasi-commercial messages in does limit the type and length of pieces that can be played. Also, our station has gotten very ratings conscious as its budgetary needs have increased. This in turn affects the nature of programming. Our station can be pretty bland, especially during the daytime. If you like to your classical radio to challenge and excite you, don't expect listener-supporter radio to be a panacea. It will be an substantial improvement, but there are downsides to the format, as you will soon learn.

heikkice

Posted Wed, Mar 24, 4:35 p.m. Inappropriate

I, for one, would be delighted to generously support an ads-free KING-FM, but not if it resorts to the kind of abusive pledge drives that KUOW resorts to all-too-frequently.

busterg

Posted Wed, Mar 24, 6:04 p.m. Inappropriate

KING FM as developed was a mix of often bland chestnut programing and advertising worthy only of the stupid. This is some reason to again listen to KING FM since it was gifted to local arts and then so absurdly abused by them - or rather some of them.
-Dorps

Posted Thu, Mar 25, 4:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Anything - anything - would be an improvement over what KING FM has sunk to. I can't understand why anyone would listen to it when satellite radio offers straight up commercial free music for a very modest fee. I would never think of subjecting myself to it. Let's hope the new scheme works, although Bayley's "cash cow" comment doesn't exactly inspire hope.

Posted Thu, Mar 25, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

The email response from our listeners over this latest news has been very gratifying. Any notes of a negative nature have been written with the fear that we will dump classical music and go to all NPR and PRI programming... they want their classical music! I assure them that our mission has been and will remain classical music!

Just as importantly, the response from the arts community has been tremendous. While the arts groups have appreciated the almost $7 million we have given them, it is clear the arts groups also value the exposure we give them on the radio. We've featured literally hundreds of concerts on NW Focus throughout the year, all featuring local arts groups, and we look forward to expanding that. It's also our goal to get as many as 52 local broadcast concerts on KING FM, concerts featuring many of the finest classical groups in the NW.

While I applaud and support ANY effort to share classical music, including satellite radio, I am pleased that 250,000 to 300,000 people choose to listen to their local station, KING FM, each week, with thousands more listening online. With their support, this local station, owned by the arts and supporting NW arts, can continue and even expand, and with it, our local arts community as well.

I am sure it will be hard to convince those for whom cynicism seems to be a lifestyle, but in my 30 years at KING FM, and through all the years my family listened when I was a youngster, I've come to see KING FM as a great community resource. It's a feeling shared by all of us here, and we hear that when we meet our listeners, too. Nothing could make us happier.

I welcome your constructive criticism just as I welcome positive feedback. Please write me at PD@king.org. Bryan Lowe - Program Director of 98.1 KING FM. Online at http://king.org

Janacek

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 12:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Quinn: I don't mean to be disrespectful but as the former program director of KING-FM I have to ask: Giannone...who? And when did KING ever subscribe to Walrus Research and its finding? Wait...there it is on Glen Beck's blackboard. "WR" That's short for Wagner's Ring. Seattle Opera is one of the owners of KING. It's...(shed a tear here) so obvious. I find your comments often amusing, provoking and occasionally food for thought but ...WHAT flavor of KoolAid are you drinking? While we're setting the record straight, you wrote way back that I banned vocal and solo instrument music from the station back in the 90's. Not so. Not even close. And I'll go you toe-to-toe on that assertion. You're thinking about 15 years prior to a previous program director. Does KING make mistakes? Of course. But the mistakes tend to be self-correcting because the station actually listens to its listeners, even you. You do have some constructive critiques of the station past and present but I have to tell you that the thoughts are presented in such a hyperbolic way with ad hominem assaults on the current management that they can't possibly be taken seriously. You would do well to muster your facts, assemble your arguments, be specific in your charges and be fair in your critique. You are obviously a thoughtful and caring listener of KING-FM. That is most appreciated. No more care is required. Just a bit more thought.
Peter

psnewman

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

I don't want to beat this horse deader than it already is but for those few who enjoy this inside-baseball (are mixed metaphors permitted here?) again I'll respond: David Giovannoni's work was never the basis of any programming decisions at KING. For one thing his work was done for public radio stations and we wouldn't have wanted to pay for access. We did some audience research in the 80's and early in this decade but results were pretty obvious. Some pieces of music "test" better than others and everyone hates the commercials.

Bach Suites, solo instrument, etc was not banned on KING-FM. We may not have played it in the quantity you would prefer but was played. If I had access to a play-list from...take an arbitrary date...3/26/1996 I could prove it to you.

Arts songs, that's another matter. Yes, they were and are extremely limited in quantity. At the time mostly confined to "Live by George" and occasional live broadcasts, including the Seattle Chamber Music Festival. But I would be avoiding your critique if I stopped there. Art songs just aren't very good radio. I love Winterreise, the Mahler cycles, the Strauss Four Last Songs, etc. but they don't work on the radio. Ideally they require a translated text to be followed by the listener (Ever been to to a concert where the text is not in the program?). As important is the mood and setting the listener experiences. That's better done on the listener''s own terms, meaning their own recording, in the environment of their choosing. And it's such a rarefied art form that there just aren't enough people in the radio listening audience to justify devoting much airtime to the art song.

Do the numbers: KING reaches 250,000 to 300,000 people a week. If the Seattle Symphony sells out four houses for a series 10,000 will have attended. When a Seattle Chamber Music Summer Festival concert is sold out maybe 450 people are in attendance. If you'd like to start a music festival or series devoted to the art song I wish you much luck in that. Even a scan of the NY Times arts section doesn't show much interest in this rarefied (and wonderful) art form.

KING-FM isn't an arts group. It's a radio station. An imperfect delivery system for some (and sadly not all) glorious music. It is trying to survive in a world of downloads, on-demand sources, satellite, etc. It has a board and staff that is committed to its existence. If you have some constructive ideas about how the station can better meet the future I know that Lowe and Ridewood would invite your input. So far I haven't seen that unless by implication you believe that KING's future rests on more arts songs and Bach solo cello compositions. That's a start. What else ya got?

Peter

psnewman

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

I heard Yo-Yo play Bach's complete Cello Suite No.1 just last Saturday evening on KING FM, and I've heard most of the rest of the suites in the last several months also.

teolsen

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Forgive me if I feel compelled to add my voice to a debate that I find quite interesting. Although I live in Portland, I do travel frequently to Seattle for the opera and listen to KING on my portable radio. I sometimes listen on-line here in Portland. I believe KING does a better job than some people give it credit for.

However, I must confess that I am sympathetic to quinn's point of view. I would not dispute that art song is not the most popular form of classical music and is probably not ideal for radio, but I doubt that Quinn is asking that KING provide a steady diet of it (if he does, then I would not agree with that position). Nevertheless, I suspect that there are more people out there than one might think who do enjoy it. I also suspect that KING and other classical stations would survive if they did provide something a bit different once in a while. Sure, a majority of listeners may turn off the radio during Wintereisse, but they would be much the poorer for it (who knows, some may even like it if they give it a chance) And I think KING would provide a richer and more satisfying outlet for classical music if a tiny place could be found for less popular forms of music.

Classical stations should serve the entire community of classical listeners. Since most listeners do prefer standard repertoire, I can see devoting the majority of air time to pieces that appeal to those people. However, those who prefer something more challenging and a bit different ought not to be entirely neglected, either.

In sum, I am excited about KING's transformation next year. As I earlier indicated, we have always had listener supported classical radio in Portland. We are better off for it. I fervently hope that it brings about a greater diversity of music to Seattle, which includes includes a place for not only Mozart and Beethoven, but also the lengthy symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler and, yes,just once in a while pieces such as the Britten solo cello suites and Winteriesse.

heikkice

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 12:34 p.m. Inappropriate

I think that's a pretty accurate summary of the issues. The exciting thing for KING is that once the pressure of producing ratings to support an advertising model is diminished (It will never go away but a lot of what is done to boost ratings is technical manipulation of the methodology. KING, as well as All-Classical care about ratings to the extent that they give measurement to the desires of an audience) then the voices of Quinn and others will have greater potency because listener support demands serving various constituencies, including those who like solo baroque, art songs, etc.

That's what I meant earlier about errors being self-correcting. It's never perfect when you try and satisfy the tastes of 250,000-300,000 listeners but non-commercial radio has to have its ear closer to the ground than commercial stations.

One other thing that Bryan and KING have not been given enough credit for is the development of alternate programming streams online. True, there is presently not a "Lieder Channel" but it's not inconceivable that one could be developed. Right now KING is in the process of setting up the machinery and procedures to make it all work. Don't think that the Symphonic Channel, Evergreen, Opera and Arts are the last word on the subject.

I wish Quinn could appreciate the complexity of balancing all the strategic, aesthetic and business choices that a classical music radio station has to make every day. The truth is, I'm quite sympathetic to the spirit that animates his over-the-top "ha-ha" moments. Quinn is wishing for something that we would all want: exposure and appreciation toward the vast body of great art that we call "classical music." In my 33 years of association with KING I've seen it zig and zag toward a more perfect future. It isn't perfect and mistakes get made. Having made my share I know that. But to suggest that the motives of the board and staff are anything less than supportive to a good end is to enter into a Glenn (I got the spelling right this time) Beckian world that really doesn't advance anyone's understanding of the issues. I think Quinn himself elevated the discourse with some really excellent suggestions for vocal music and other music that flies under the radar screen. If those suggestions are unaccompanied by a chalk board with circles and lines pointing to a classical radio death star it would make for interesting reading. And listening.

Peter

psnewman

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 1:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Peter, I appreciate your thoughtful comments today. I have engaged in debates similar to this with those in charge of KQAC, who make similar arguments in defense of their programming. I appreciate the difficulties in progamming music on a classical station. Nevertheless, my experience has been that classical stations reflexively gravitate toward to what is safe and inoffensive, what I call lowest common demoninator programming. While that results in music satisfying to the greatest number, it does not in my view realize the full potential of classical radio. I have to believe there is a place for the unusual on a classical station, even if it is not especially popular. I won't trouble anyone further with my thoughts, except to say that I look forward to listening to the new KING FM on my trips to Seattle next year. Good luck to you.

heikkice

Posted Fri, Mar 26, 1:29 p.m. Inappropriate

I too am going to hang up the phone on this discussion, interesting as it is. I will only wrap up my thoughts by saying that when Quinn writes that "'streams online' is irrelevant to this discussion of FM radio" he is so obviously ignoring the technological revolution around us. If we were having a discussion about our neighborhood video store and why it doesn't carry more French New Wave films and someone brought up Netflix or downloaded movies I guess Quinn would say that was not relevant because we are talking about video stores.

One of the difficulties I had as program director and the person who put KING-FM online in 1990 (BBS) the first website 1993, the first internet radio station (1995) was convincing the powers that be that this new technology needed to be harnessed. It could either be ours or belong to someone else. At the time the counter-argument was that the KING audience was older and the technology would not be a good fit with the audience. I don't think I entirely won the argument and I'm grateful that Bryan has pushed ahead and that the station is now committed to the 21st century.

Quinn, I'll close by trying to make this as simple for you as possible: In the future (present almost) people will not care whether you call it FM, satellite, Internet or Bruce the Wonderdog. As long as you can flick a switch on a box and out comes programming that you are looking for it will be used - used the way we use radio now. Plus a few bells and whistles added. With that in mind your admirable call for vision must be viewed in a different light. The future aint what it used to be.

On that mangled thought and this one, this dead horse has left the building.

Peter

psnewman

Posted Sat, Mar 27, 4:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Quinn: Satellite radios are not fiendishly complicated technical devices. You obviously use a computer, which is likely much more complex. Satellite radio requires only a clear view of the southern sky for its antenna, and even that is unnecessary in most areas near Seattle, where ground transmitters offer coverage. You plug the satellite receiver's output into any amplifier or audio device with an input jack. Many satellite radios also have a very low power FM transmitter in them you can set to transmit on an FM frequency with no local station, making things even easier. You simply listen through your (nearby) FM radio. I think I am paying 12 to 15 bucks a month for the service, which is well worth it.

Although not wickedly complex, it is admittedly more involved than simply turning on a regular old FM radio. And I agree with you that local is better, and I too like the idea of listening to the same music as others nearby. And satellite can seem pretty sterile - the music selections I mostly like but the pre-recorded DJ'ing leaves something to be desired. A good local station would be better.

As a long time radio buff, I dearly hope the new KING works out, and if it does it could be a lot better than satellite. I was a weird teenager who in the 1970's liked tuning in to KXA during the day and KKHI from San Francisco at night while driving around drinking beer with friends. And I am still lamenting BBC's ending of its shortwave broadcasting to N America (need satellite radio now for it,) leaving Radio Havana Cuba as about the only interesting thing left on shortwave here.

I think the cynicism from myself and others is just the inevitable result of KING FM having sunk so godawfully low for so long. It's been sooooo bad for soooooo long it's hard to even conceive of it ever being good. But hope springs eternal. I look forward to its rebirth. I hope that the entire crew who ruined it are sent packing. This could be the start of something really good - if different people are put in charge. And if it is, I will gladly contribute as generously as I can. I will be a frequent and devoted listener, and I suspect many many others will be too.

But meanwhile, the rebirth is still 15 months off - you might still like to give satellite a try, imperfect though it be. That 12 or 15 bucks a month buys a lot of choices in both music and talk. Even after July '11, choices will be good. It'd be great if KING FM were one of them.

Posted Sun, Mar 28, 8:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Since I still consider the horse still dead I'm going to resist the temptation to keep this inquisition alive. I think anybody still reading knows both side of this subject in sufficient and agonizing detail.

I am interested in some of Quinn's thoughts about public radio since that is what KING is going to become. Since an earlier post referenced the work of David Giovannoni and Walrus Research (never used by KING-FM) was done exclusively for public radio and encompassed the totality of public radio formats (news, talk, jazz, etc) - I'd like Quinn's thoughts about how well KUOW and KPLU serve the local community. Extra credit goes to how other public radio stations (All-Classical in Portland, KUSC in LA, WGHB/WCRB and WBUR in Boston, WNYC/WQXR in New York all would be good examples) fulfill their mission, serve their community and operate successfully in a challenging media environment.

Whether you agree or disagree with Quinn's assertions about KING's past and future we might benefit from knowing his thoughts about public radio in general.

Peter

psnewman

Posted Sun, Mar 28, 5:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Great thread, you guys! On a station in my former life, the Program Director thought he knew what the listeners wanted, and on listener request days he would play only chestnuts. I of course was stubborn and refused to play that stuff -- instead I took actual requests. In six years of taking requests, only once did I have a listener choose the Pachelbel Canon.

Quinn is right that the classical repertoire is broad and deep. There's so much wonderful music out there to discover -- I hear something new literally every day in my job -- and Seattle is eager to hear it all. What other city will fill an 800-seat hall for Medieval music? The Seattle audience is incredibly knowledgeable and engaged.

Once KING goes public, the listeners will have direct input, and the station's challenge will be to turn listeners into donors by respecting their opinions. Quinn, get out your checkbook! You should be able to get your Monteverdi madrigal and Faure chanson along with your $200 donation. In fact, that's a good idea for a fundraiser, Bryan. Let the listeners program the station. I've got my playlist ready, and once the listeners hear the music I have in store for them, they'll throw donations at you.

Congratulations on the best arts news Seattle has had since the creation of ArtsFund.

Marty Ronish
Producer, Chicago Symphony broadcasts, online at www.cso.org
Edmonds

mronish

Posted Mon, Mar 29, 6:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Not "bold", just thankful for your thoughtful, reasoned answer.

Peter

psnewman

Posted Mon, Mar 29, 8:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Note received from a good friend:

"Good job ol Quinn. You sure showed them ol' Quinn. I especially loved it when you smacked em with that Bach cello suite never heard thing. Oh yeah, it was played but on Bach's birthday after you said you had only heard it once since the Carter administration. But you came back with a wonderful retort about it being his birthday and so it didn't count. Blinded them with your rhetorical brilliance ol' Quinn so they didn't even notice that "only once" really means only once so either you didn't hear that and maybe missed other airings or you were just making an assertion up out of whole cloth. Good show ol' Quinn.

And you really got em when you said that the Internet wasn't really relevant to radio. I almost fell over on my rocker but by grandson caught me. Good thing too because at the time he was listening to Anonymous 7 on something he calls an Eye Pod. Funny he didn't understand why I was so musically deprived being limited to radio.

Good show ol' Quinn on all that boring crap on public radio. I'm especially bored when all this BBC World Service stuff comes on. Back in my day we had to get it on short wave. Now we're stuck with it in full fidelity. It's just wrong you know. I miss the fades in and out. And what could be more boring than This American Life or Radiolab. And don't get me started with Keillor. Obviously he's boring because he's too popular and we know the public doesn't have any taste. If they did why would they allow Studio 360, Says You, The Swing Years, Alternative Radio, On the Media, etc to put us to sleep. You got that right Quinn, it's one boring radio universe out there.

Anyway, once again, good show ol' Quinn. I think you've done cause and country much good. I know you or I won't be surprised when no change occurs after KING becomes non-commercial. How could it? What could possibly be different? Must go now. Time for the yellow pills. Or was it the green? Ah, yes, I'm told it's the yellow. Write soon. I'm really enjoying this electronic, what's it called, e-mail. A bit hard to read the screen sometime but I'm told if I upgrade to a 22" LCD 1080p monitor it will look better.

Your Good Friend

psnewman

Posted Tue, Mar 30, 7:35 a.m. Inappropriate

I promised not to continue the discussion but I'm only passing on what your friend wrote. He now tells me he is a bit confused about all this since
a) The original subject is "Listener Supported" which neither includes nor excludes NPR, BBC, etc. And since he tells me that the research you refer to is largely an analysis of spoken-word formats it would not, therefore, make sense that you reference to this research as the basis of your problem with KING-FM. Certainly not as a primary source.

b) Your friend also asked me why, when you did reference public radio, the only program you cited is a program that is hosted by an author, humorist and all-around man of words (Keillor)? It would put you in the unenviable position of turning Prairie Home Companion on and off many times during the program. Pity. "It's been a quiet week..." is occasionally wonderful.

Yes, we both find ourselves, therefore, vexed. I can't speak for your friend but I'll try not to ask any more questions in the future. Fact checking gets tedious after a while.

psnewman

Posted Tue, Mar 30, 3:04 p.m. Inappropriate

No Quinn, the original subject that Felix wrote about was the challenge and promise that KING-FM going non-commercial faced. You, as you have in posts past, will use any article where KING is referenced as a launching pad for a series of tirades connected together by research that wasn't done and evil-doers who walk the halls of the station. It is neither correct nor helpful and after all these months I thought that someone should call you out on it.

You are obviously smart, well-read (about some things) and passionate about the music. What you lack is the ability to see KING in the context of our present media environment, the economy and increasingly diverse technology that is altering the way we listen to music. When an assertion is challenged you say that it is off-point, throw out another smoke bomb, another bit of personal invective and ...for what?

Beyond the first few posts when you had some really lovely suggestions for additional short vocal selections that might make the station sound richer, you've offered nothing of value and little of truth. Since I no longer work at the station I don't have to adopt the correct attitude adaptation and make you think that "the customer is always right" and "thanks for your input." Were I still working there I would not be so candid and we'd just have to wait for another KING article in which your snarky comments about the board, management, the current announcers, the music, ad nauseam would go unchallenged.

Think what you will Quinn, write what you like. The station is going to face the challenge and the considerable promise of becoming a true public instrument. The programming will continue to evolve and reflect these changes. The mission of the station will be energized and become even more in keeping with the desires of the founders and original owners. The board, the management and the staff will go about their day doing their best to serve the community. They will listen to and serve the arts community, the public and the great body of music we all love and share. They will also have to turn their heads every now and then and do it with civility even as some choose not to similarly conduct themselves.

And yes, now, back to the music.

psnewman

Posted Thu, Apr 1, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

In my opinion, dumbing down to the listeners has caused much of the downfall of classical music stations. By this, I mean such things as playing only little bits rather than complete movements, using liners and jingles, etc. I guess this is based on the perceived short attention span of today's listener.

I am far from expert in classical music, but I enjoy hearing the long pieces of music and trying to understand them, and looking up the history of the composers and their works, learning about the various orchestras and conductors, and absorbing something that feels restful and good for the brain and the mind.

If you have internet access, there is a great deal of free and commercial-free classical (and other) music available from all over the world. You don't need a computer to listen, just a wi-fi radio, available in many stores and online.

Posted Thu, Apr 1, 10:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Not being Quinn, I'll be glad to hear classical music of ANY genre/period when it is presented to me without idiotic commercials. Also not being Quinn, I recognize that radio/TV/blogs must be paid for by someone. I'll be happy to donate and listen to KING in lieu of not donating and not listening to KING. Seems like a fair tradeoff.

It's no longer cute to brag about not having a computer, nor is it probably correct to say "like many people." That's simply elitist, as also evidenced by remarks about the music played on KING. Buy your own station, Quinn, or simply stick to CDs.

sarah

Posted Thu, Apr 1, 5:23 p.m. Inappropriate

It's no longer cute to brag about not having a computer, nor is it probably correct to say "like many people." That's simply elitist.

Was it ever cute?
As for the comment about many people not owning a computer, this statistic may be of use. According to the OECD, there were 26.7 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants in the U.S. in 2009. (One cannot very well stream music without an Internet connection, and it is not a very pleasant experience on dialup.) It is noted that, as there is often more than one person per connection, penetration is higher than a quarter. Even if we assume three people per subscription, however, that leaves something like 80 million people without broadband.

So, I don't see how it's elitist of Quinn to say that many people cannot stream music. Or am I missing something?

Posted Thu, Apr 1, 7:15 p.m. Inappropriate

It doesn't leave 80 million people without computers, and what Quinn said was "and like many people I don't own a computer."

sarah

Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:15 p.m. Inappropriate

But the context was alternatives to FM radio, so what really matters is broadband penetration. I don't have figures at hand regarding computer ownership, but the number is likelier higher than we imagine. If anything, that is elitist — to imagine everyone across the land is situated as well as we are in Seattle — and even here I'm sure there are populations without access.

I fear that the old media model may be crumbling before the new one can fully take off, and that will leave a lot of people figuratively in the dark.

Posted Sat, Oct 9, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

I was formerly employed by KING-FM. During the week, I worked at KING-TV, and, at the same time, from June, 1970 to April of 1972, I was one of the weekend on-air hosts on KING-FM. At that time, the station's manager and program director was Jim Wilke.

Dorothy Bullitt had the habit of visiting the KING-TV lunch room each day so that she should be in touch with the pulse of the station and to get to know the people who worked there. Since the KING-FM personnel were in a different environment and had different hours, for the same purpose, she decided to invite all KING-FM employees to her home on Capital Hill for a brunch one Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, my shift was over for the day, so I was able to participate.

After the food had been consumed, we all retired to her sitting room for conversation. There were about eleven of us.

During the discourse, someone asked Mrs. Bullitt what kind of classical music she wanted to hear on KING-FM. She responded by saying that what she wanted to hear on the station was not important, but it was important what the listeners desired.

She said that all KING Broadcasting Company stations had three goals, in this order of priority:

1. Performing a public service
2. Obtaining station operating revenue
3. Airing quality programming

So, regarding classical music programming, it would appear that the listeners were the determining factor. But, regarding station philosophy, it would appear that Mrs. Bullitt's priorities would prevail, since it was she who established its tone when she put it on the air in 1948.

Mrs. Bullitt, and her two daughters, have decided that KING-FM should always remain a classical music oriented station, but that the listeners should decide the kind of classic music the station would air. Jim Wilke once told me that he took his marching orders not only from Mrs. Bullitt, but from the listeners.

Mrs. Bullitt always wanted a broad spectrum of classical music to be broadcast and did not want the station to become a classical jukebox, where one would drop in a nickel (now a quarter) into the machine and out would come some short, three minute light classical piece.

When I was at KING-FM, Mr. Wilke took his duties very seriously by scheduling whole symphonies during the drive-time hours. Because of the length of these musical selections, on-air commercial announcement availability slots were drastically reduced.

However, even though this inhibited the revenue generating capabilities of the station, Mrs. Bullitt never objected, but left the programming decisions to the people responsible for them. She always had a general hands-off approach to any station she owned.

However, if it appeared that one of her broadcast operations appeared to be going dangerously off track, she would quietly make suggestions as to how she thought a change should be made.

I believe Mrs. Bullitt would have approved of the move from a commercial to a listener supported operation for KING-FM. I also believe in her idea that a station's public service activities should always prevail over monetary considerations.

This is not a negative reference at all, but people, who really knew her, called her the "velvet steam roller," because, in her quiet, gentle, kind manner, she could convince people to do what she thought was best. I miss her guidance and wisdom. She was, without a doubt, one of the most considerate, humanitarian people I have ever known.

Thanks to Dorothy Bullitt, Seattle is very fortunate to have had a radio facility devoted entirely to classical music, and to also have had the kind of station management with the intelligence, ability, and intent to continue to bring this about. Many other cities are not so lucky.

All dissention aside, in my opinion, the present day KING-FM is a direct reflection of the vision of Dorothy Stimson Bullitt and what she stood for, and, in her memory, I am confident that it will continue to provide the kind of high quality programming that Seattle has enjoyed since 1948.

Radioman

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