KTOO aims to triple airtime with new stations

Variety of radio choices questioned with impending loss of two commercial outlets

Posted: Wednesday, June 07, 2006

It didn't take long for the idea of "K-3" to seem an unoriginal pun.

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With the news Tuesday that Juneau's public radio station, KTOO, plans to triple its airtime by buying two local commercial FM stations, the play on the station's name was popping up in e-mails, said Cheryl Levitt, KTOO radio station manager.

KTOO President and General Manager Bill Legere announced Tuesday that the broadcast operation will be serving Juneau with three public radio stations by mid-October, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission. The station signed an asset purchase agreement with White Oak Broadcasting, which owns the adult contemporary stations KFMG and KSRJ, known as "Magic 100.7" and "Star 102.7."

"Juneau has let us know that they have a great appetite for public radio - far beyond what we can program in a 24-hour schedule," Legere said.

The offices of KFMG and KSRJ also heard from people Tuesday, after a front-page Empire story reported KTOO's plan to buy the stations, said Station Manager Cassy Blackwell.

"People are pretty upset," she said. "I think there are a lot of people who enjoy both stations."

She said the stations offer "hot adult contemporary" and "soft adult contemporary" formats covering popular musical tastes of adults into their mid-50s.



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There had been some talk that the stations were for sale, she said. She referred questions as to why it was up for sale to an owner in California. But she is disappointed that the stations are apparently going to a National Public Radio affiliate.

"I think the last thing they need in this town is another public radio station," said Blackwell, who has worked for the commercial stations since they debuted in October 1999.

KTOO plans to use the additional stations to provide a wider variety of programming, Levitt said. The board is talking about running three different "streams" of programming: news-talk, jazz and classical, and contemporary music. All would run 24 hours a day.

"Nothing is set in stone," Levitt said. "It's important we involve the community in the decisions."

Currently, all the programming runs on a single station, and there isn't enough time to broadcast everything the station's supporters have said they want to hear, she said.

"Fresh Air," a literary interview program, runs on Saturdays, but listeners have said they want it more frequently. Listeners also asked for more of "Talk of the Nation" and the weekly hour-long quiz program "Wait Wait - Don't Tell Me!" There are also more local volunteers requesting radio shows than there was room for in the schedule, Levitt said.

Two more stations will increase community involvement and educational opportunities, creating the opportunity for partnerships with the University of Alaska Southeast and local high school students, Levitt said.

During the recent school year, KTOO created a broadcast news component for Juneau-Douglas High School journalism students, with support from a grant from the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. The student-produced stories played during the local morning news, she said.

"We're so much more than radio," she said. "We're an integral part of the community."

Originally the KTOO board was looking to purchase one additional station so they could offer more to the community, Levitt said. When they found KFMG and KSRJ for sale as a package, they considered keeping one station and selling the other.

As the board looked into it more, they found that buying two more stations would be more efficient. The cost of the NPR program won't change, no matter how many they choose to run. Levitt expects increased support from the community will cover the increased cost of operations.

"We're not buying the stations with membership dollars" - money raised from pledge drives she said.

As for what the new stations would be called, that will have to wait for FCC approval, Levitt said.

If FCC approval came today, KWON and KTRE would be available, she said.

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