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Friday, May 22, 2009

Good Citizen Journalism: Hudson Covers KAUR Broadcast Shutdown

Hat tip to South Dacola!

Sioux Falls blogger Scott Hudson provides something no other area media have: a full, detailed account of why Augustana radio station KAUR is shutting down its broadcast signal and switching entirely online operations. Hudson has a passion for good music and the local music scene. He was also a DJ for KAUR for 18 years and even enjoyed a stint as its music director back in the 1980s.

Disappointed with the thin coverage the matter received in the professional press, Hudson goes to KAUR general manager Tom Prochazka to get the straight poop. Hudson provides a lengthy interview transcript that tells how the decision was announced to the staff and gives the reasons cited by Augie Dean Mark Braun for the station's mission change:
  1. low student listenership and preference for online radio
  2. lack of student DJs
  3. no fit for KAUR in the curriculum
  4. physical space
  5. worries the FCC could fine Augie into bankruptcy for one naughty word
  6. possibility of leasing the frequency to MPR or the Catholic Diocese
Prochazka tells Hudson that the move online results in a serious reduction of potential listeners:

The drawback with streaming is the royalty and licensing fee schedule. In order to stay within our budget, we would have to limit subscriptions to an average maximum of 212. There is some wiggle room here but the math works out that 212 people listening 24 hours a day would be just under a consumption level requiring a higher fee. 213 people would put us into the next category. So, access to over 300,000 potential listeners by broadcast or access to under 300 listeners via stream? Why not 300,300+ by both? [Tom Prochazka, interviewed by Scott Hudson, "Augie's Bonehead Decision Regarding KAUR," Rant-A-Bit, 2009.05.19]

Yikes—I didn't realize the added complication of calculating royalties online. I'd like to think that, as portable Web-enabled devices become more common, we could all listen to KAUR and other radio stations online just as easily as we can listen to the standard AM and FM broadcasts on our radios (and think about this: what do you have in your backpack or pocket more often, a cell phone or a radio?). But online broadcasts just can't reach as many people at once as a good radio signal.

Hudson offers his own commentary, noting the importance of a broadcast signal for catching new listeners and introducing them to new music. After all, it's a lot easier for a casual Sioux Falls listener to scan the entire radio dial and discover KAUR than it is to scan the entire Internet. Hudson notes that a campus radio station is a great learning experience, regardless of whether it fits in a specific academic program. Hudson also points out that KAUR is one of Augie's best community outreach efforts.

I do look forward to being able to listen to KAUR here at Lake Herman, right alongside my favorite online radio station for new non-top-40 music, Alberta's CKUA. But Mr. Hudson is right: Augustana College and Sioux Falls are losing a good cultural resource in KAUR's over-the-air broadcasts. Let's hope that Augie can at least find a broadcaster like MPR to lease the station and fill the gap with some good music.

And let's hope Mr. Hudson keeps up the good citizen journalism.

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