Salt Lake City’s KCPW cites program costs, duplication in canceling NPR programs

By Ben Mook

Salt Lake City pubcaster Wasatch Public Media, licensee of KCPW-FM, will drop all NPR programs June 24, a schedule change intended to save money and differentiate its service from other pubcasters in the market.

“A lot of the decision just came down to sheer economics – NPR is just getting more and more expensive,” said Wasatch C.E.O. Ed Sweeney. “And, when you already have NPR in the market with other stations, it just gets harder and harder to set yourself apart when pitching to sponsors and underwriters.”

The University of Utah’s KUER-FM is KCPW’s primary competitor for NPR news listeners. “We were just looking more and more alike, and you can’t stay in business doing that,” Sweeney said. “To survive, we knew we couldn’t be a repeater of NPR programming. So, we made a business decision and we are excited about it.”

KCPW is dropping 14 shows including NPR newsmagazines and mainstays such as All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, and Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! Four programs to be cancelled will no longer air in Salt Lake: Ask Me Another, Bullseye, On Point and TED Radio Hour.

The new schedule mixes local shows with national fare distributed by Public Radio International (such as The Takeaway and Q with Jian Ghomeshi),  American Public Media (BBC News Hour) and Public Radio Exchange (The Moth).

“NPR is great and they have some great shows,” Sweeney said. “But there are a lot of other great shows out there too. If public radio is just NPR — we’ll find out on June 24. But, I don’t think it is.”

Wasatch bought KCPW in 2008 from Community Wireless of Park City Inc., which operates public radio outlet KPCW-FM. NPR programming fees made up about half of the new licensee’s expenses, Sweeney said. By reducing program costs and clearly differentiating its schedule, Sweeney hopes that  KCPW will be in stronger position to cultivate sponsors and underwriters.

“But, the real winner in all of this is the Salt Lake City audience,” Sweeney said. “They will have access to great NPR shows still, and we’re going to give them some unique options as well. It’s going to create a much richer environment.”

  • Bill Tutuki

    Lets hope KCPW can function well without the NPR affiliation.

  • Blahblahblah Noah

    NPR has gone from “public radio” to a closed, for profit, exclusive system that’s 4 times as expensive as commercial competitors. It’s absurd for tax payer funded programming to comprise so much of the budget for these small stations. NPR needs to back off the creature comforts and get back to basics. Just recently they auctioned off 10 million in “surplus equipment” after a 50 million refurbishment. Why not parse out that gear to affiliates? Why the change to XDS causing affiliates to rack up another $6K in hardware charges per receiver? It’s silly to continue to support their bloated, very liberal agenda. while the top feeders fill their pockets. NPR is like Congress…they get what they want, you pay for it, and you better be happy about it.

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