I listen to KUER-FM, the public radio station owned and operated by the University of Utah. I find the program format - classical music and jazz intermingled with news and information - to be unique in all of Utah. So I get a bad feeling when the station management denies media reports that the classical and jazz programming is due to be axed in the near future while admitting that the idea of changing formats is being "studied."
Station manager John Greene says as KUER has gradually replaced its classical programs with news, the audience has defected to Provo's KBYU, which plays a greater percentage of classical music. I, for one, change the dial rather than listen to lightweight new programs like "What Do You Know?" The thought of the station heading further in that direction is troubling.A recent newspaper editorial stated the KUER format is not worth saving because classical-music fans can switch over to KBYU. By that logic we could eliminate the entire University of Utah since all the students could transfer to BYU.
There is something to be said for having a choice. What the writer failed to realize is that this state extends beyond the Wasatch Front, but KBYU's signal does not. KUER is already the only classical/jazz choice for Utahns in many rural areas - such as Monticello, where I grew up.
The University of Utah has a declared mission to fill a unique niche not served by the private sector. Our state shouldn't have to rely upon church-owned BYU. Listeners are still donating money to the station to support existing programming.
KUER gives a voice to arts organizations we Utahns take such pride in so those who can't attend concerts can still listen and receive the academic benefits of exposure to classical music. It has helped maintain jazz as our uniquely American art form. It has provided education, uplift and inspiration to countless listeners at the touch of a button.
I hope decision makers at KUER are looking at ways to entice young listeners without following the national penchant for "dumbing down" everything from textbooks to public radio. Even if a future format were centered around news and information programs of excellent quality, it would still duplicate what is already available.
This state has an unusually high percentage of young people who are involved in band, choir, orchestra and private music instruction. We have an active and vital arts community led by world-class professional organizations and extending to the grass roots of community music groups in practically every town. The audience base is there. Rather than abandoning them, let's find a way to reach them.