KUOW’s Wayne Roth, co-founder of SRG, to retire in September

By Dru Sefton

Wayne Roth, longtime station chief at Seattle’s KUOW-FM and a past recipient of CPB’s Murrow Award honoring outstanding contributions to public radio, plans to retire in September.

Roth’s influential pubradio career spans 45 years. During nine years on the NPR Board in the 1980s,  Roth “played a critical role in reinventing NPR, moving it from reliance on federal funding and directing those funds to the stations instead,” according the announcement released by the University of Washington, KUOW’s licensee.  His long service on the NPR board included two years as chair from 1988-90.

Wayne Roth, retiring after 45 years in public broadcasting. (Photo: KUOW)

Wayne Roth, retiring after 45 years in public broadcasting. (Photo: KUOW)

Roth joined KUOW in 1983. During his tenure, the station — which serves Puget Sound, western Washington and Southern British Columbia — has become a pubradio powerhouse. “Wayne has built an outstanding team of radio professionals, and the station has grown tremendously and prospered under his leadership,” said Joan Enticknap, chair of the Puget Sound Public Radio board of directors. “KUOW is an integral part of our community and our quality of life in the Northwest.” The station reaches more than 450,000 listeners each week and is the area’s most listened-to news and information station.

Roth served on the board of the Maryland-based Station Resource Group during its formative years as an affinity group advising top stations on public radio policy and development. In 2001 he returned to the SRG board and in 2012 completed his tenure as chair, during which he oversaw several station-focused SRG initiatives such as the CPB-backed Grow the Audience study. Roth also worked to secure two precedent-setting agreements that benefited the entire public radio system: a contract with Arbitron to provide Portable People Meter ratings to public radio stations, and a license-fee agreement with SoundExchange, the nonprofit performance rights organization.

Tom Thomas, SRG co-c.e.o., calls Roth “a public radio hero.”

“He has played an extraordinary role in creating America’s public radio system,” Thomas told Current, “building strong local stations, contributing in many ways to the growth of our national organizations, nurturing the careers of dozens of talented people, and always advancing a vision of how we might do better.”

In 2005 Roth received CPB’s Edward R. Murrow Award honoring individuals whose contributions have benefited the field of public radio. At the time,  CPB noted:  “Roth has pioneered most of the significant initiatives undertaken by public radio — from offering stations more choice in their program investments, to increasing participation of minority and rural stations, to pushing for more regional collaboration.”

Roth is also managing director of the Northwest News Network, a regional consortium that produces news coverage for pubradio stations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The success of N3, as the consortium is called, influenced creation of the CPB-backed Local Journalism Centers in 2010.

Enticknap said a national search is under way for his replacement.

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