Op Ed: Harriet Bullitt blesses a new incarnation of KING-FM

A listener-supported station will engage the public more and add education to its mission, writes the author, whose mother founded KING-FM.
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One of KING-FM's signature programs in the afternoon rush hour.

A listener-supported station will engage the public more and add education to its mission, writes the author, whose mother founded KING-FM.

When my sister, Patsy Collins, and I sold King Broadcasting Company, we personally bought out KING-FM to secure it as a separate company to serve the Seattle area forever with classical music. We did this to honor our mother, Dorothy Bullitt, but principally because we knew so well how passionately devoted our local listeners are to KING'ꀙs classical music. We always shared the love of classics, having grown up with it in our home. Over the years, mail and phone calls from our audience have constantly reminded us of the intense loyalty to the classic format on KING. Sometimes we'ꀙve had sharp comments, expressing unfounded fears that we might be allowing a change in format to veer away from classics.

Classical music has a limited following in the general population, however. Stations across the country have failed. Local community radio in all formats is having a hard time right now. National companies that advertise have been coalescing into bigger giants, and they seek wide audiences in the general population. Local radio stations throughout the U.S have either closed or been acquired by big chains, which can then deliver low-cost commercial messages to large numbers of people — the lowest common denominator. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to find advertising support for Classical KING that is compatible with the format our listeners want and delivers commercial messages thar respect our listeners'ꀙ taste.

Fortunately, Classic KING has an innovative board, whose members are committed to keeping classical music on the air in Seattle. They really care, as do I care; if my sister Patsy were alive today, we'ꀙd be together supporting the board'ꀙs new plan for restructuring a revenue stream for Classic KING. Station operations will be listener supported, starting next year. Instead of buying products to validate advertising income for the station, local listeners will have the opportunity to sponsor the broadcasts directly. It makes sense. Listener loyalty is long-lived and local financial commitment will insure that our beloved King will broadcast classical music as long as it serves the community.

All institutions must evolve. I'ꀙm pleased that KING'ꀙs new strategy remains true to our vision. Actually, with this new model, I expect that KING will not only return to reliable support of the classical music scene in Seattle, but will expand its support significantly. At the same time, the listener-support format will actually create more airtime for the music we all love.

To top it off, there will be a new element that improves on our vision. While we always saw KING-FM as a community treasure, the ways in which the community could interact with the station were limited. In this new partnership, the listener relationship can really drive the station, and the station can be more richly engaged in supporting the whole classical music fabric of the community. I am pleased to hear that Classical KING-FM will include as part of their mission a classical music education element. This will help allow younger listeners to learn and appreciate the great music that we have enjoyed for years.


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