Why Public Radio in Rural Alaska Should Not Play Classical Music

nprlogoI have a bone to pick with my “local” public radio station. KUAC is an NPR affiliate based in Fairbanks. I am new to the area so I don’t yet know the history of the station or much more than it is one of three stations I can get clearly here in Tok (one seems to toggle between being a rock station and a country station ?!? and the other is a religious station). I’ve learned that the only reason I can get KUAC/NPR here in Tok is because of the ongoing efforts of a tiny Tok-based nonprofit called Duct Tape Radio that funds/manages the repeater. (More on Duct Tape Radio in an upcoming post!)

So before I rant, I must say I am grateful for any bit of NPR that I can get out here. I crave my Fresh Air with Terry Gross, I long for my Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation, I can’t get enough of Humankind and The World from the BBC. These are my daily touchstones, the familiar voices and fascinating stories that fuel my mind, heart and soul. Being out here in such a rurual area of Alaska, my need for these programs has increased 100 fold.

But almost every time I turn on KUAC, they are playing classical music. And it really pisses me off.

Okay, I know there are many classical music fans out there. In fact, I was chided by someone in Tok who pointed out that the morning program is Performance Today from American Public Media and that I should be appreciating those fine composers. Whatever. I can appreciate fine composers in the evening when I’m winding down. I don’t mind some classical music after dinner now and then. But when I’m awake, alert and ready to start my day, I want Talk, not Debussy.

I may be overreacting here. Looking at KUAC’s weekday schedule, it shapes up like this:

5am-8:00am – Morning Edition

8-9:00am – Day to Day

9-11am Performance Today (except Tuesdays w/Talk of Alaska from 10-11am and Fridays with Science Fridays from 10am-12pm)

The it is Talk of the Nation, The World, followed by Afternoon Classical Concert. Afternoon Classical Concert?!? Argh

publicradioI don’t know why I’m so irked. I guess I feel that when a station is serving not only the town of Fairbanks but a large swath of rural area of Alaska via repeaters, there could be some time set aside for some relevant, local news and information. I just downloaded the iPhone App called Public Radio Tuner.

I’ve discovered that I can turn off the radio in my car when classical music starts and use my iPhone to tune into NPR stations in other parts of Alaska that actually have news, information, stories and messages during that time. I tuned into the Kotzebue NPR station KOTZ-AM to find them reading local messages. I loved it. It was like a radio version of the Mukluk News we get here in print in Tok. There were birthday announcements, event announcements, and even a thank you message from a woman whose car was pulled out of a snow drift by two local guys. THIS is what public radio should be about in rural areas.

Since I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like complaining unless I also am searching for a solution, don’t be surprised if you start hearing radio broadcasts out of Tok soon by yours truly. I always say if you don’t like something, do something about it!

Am I being too harsh on KUAC for playing classical music in the mornings? What do YOU think the role of public radio should be in rural places?

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  1. Rodney

     /  March 2, 2009

    I have turned my laptop into my entertainment hub. I now watch Fox News Channel, CNN, movies, TV shows, music, live sporting events from around the world via the World Wide Wibble…errr Web. All for free !

    All you have to do is search for any station as in the one you came from in Cali. I bet they stream NPR shows online and viola you now have NPR on your desktop. If they have a podcast you can download it to your iPod and take it with you. 🙂

  2. InJuneau

     /  March 2, 2009

    See if you can get KTOO-FM out of Juneau. We now have 3 public radio stations owned collectively and running out of the same building, so KTOO has turned into the almost all news and talk show station, with an amazing lineup all day long.

  3. intok

     /  March 3, 2009

    I love that NPR plays classical music in the daytime. It calms me and keeps me centered. Have you tried looking for your shows around 5 pm?
    The Fairbanks director is just leaving and some of the changes occurred during his watch, so you may see some changes coming when his replacement gets on.

    • I guess I feel that if I want to relax listening to classical music, I’ll play my classical music CDs. But I don’t have CDs to access in my car with current news and information about the world, the nation, or even my community. Does that make sense? And yes, I’m just not listening to radio in afternoon – scrambling to get last minute work done before picking toddler up from babysitter!

  4. intok

     /  March 3, 2009

    Terry Gross is on at 3 pm

  5. intok

     /  March 3, 2009

    The only one of your shows that isn’t on the schedule is Humankind. I can’t listen to classical CDs in the car or I’ll fall asleep!

  6. Jerry Evans

     /  March 3, 2009

    Greetings. My name is Jerry Evans and I’m the director of Programming and Operations here at KUAC 89.9. I enjoyed the article and follow-up comments. It’s always good to hear what people are saying. All opinions go into the mix. I know how good venting or ranting can feel, but if anybody ever really wants to talk about programming or has any questions feel free to contact me at Jerry@kuac.org or 474-5957. Granted I inherited some of the program decisions, but I can easily explain why prorams are where and when. Better yet a group of concerned listeners together. I’m always up for a trip to Tok.

    • Thanks for commenting! I’m sure you’ll be hearing from folks, me included. And a trip to Tok would be GREAT! I’ll be out of pocket for most of March but will be in touch directly to arrange something after that.

  7. Not everyone likes the same thing — so why should KUAC ignore people who have lived in the area and been its loyal supporters for many years just because you like constant chatter and are “pissed off”. I also (and many of my friends) love KUAC’s wonderful variety of music programming, including the afternoon break with classical music. KUAC does a GREAT job of finding a balance with providing some of both music and news to rural areas where it is the only radio provider and serves many people with varied interests — NOT just you!

    • Hey, I’m not asking them to change anything. I’m just expressing my personal opinion about programming and discussing the importance of public radio serving one’s communities and not just people’s “tastes” in music. Different listening strokes for different folks.

  8. Hi, again. It has also just been brought to my attention, that since you have both an Ipod and all kinds of expensive computer equipment (Many people here Tok and the surrounding area, who really enjoy the classical music on Afternoon Concert, cannot afford all these “toys”.), you actually CAN listen to just about anything you like at any time you want via either Internet broadcasting or on Podcasts. Perhaps you could devout your time and resources to somethings that are actually REAL problems, like the complete lack of music and art education in our public school!

  9. KUAC IS doing just that — serving our community and doing a good job of it! Local groups have often had their public service announcements broadcast and KUAC includes our local temperatures when no0ne else does. We even have a music show (that is not classical music, by the way) on Friday nights that is generated locally (see Bud Johnson at TNWR).

  10. “Perhaps you could devout your time and resources to somethings that are actually REAL problems, like the complete lack of music and art education in our public school!”

    Already doing that. Or haven’t your sources informed you of that as well?

  11. “We even have a music show (that is not classical music, by the way) on Friday nights that is generated locally (see Bud Johnson at TNWR).”

    Yes, I’ll be featuring Buddy on the blog soon. And Duct Tape Radio as well. More good projects and posts in the works.

  12. P.S. “AlsoInTok,” hope you’ll come out to meet KUAC director of Programming and Operations Jerry Evans when we host him in Tok for a meet and greet!

  13. m

     /  March 4, 2009

    hey, no one is more grateful to KUAC than this girl. I even donate once a year during the annual drive. HOWEVER… I, too, wish that classical were a less frequent programming choice considering how many awesome NPR options are out there that could be filling up at least one of the classical spots during the day.

    on an aside – i did not view this post as your report of a “problem” as one commentor put it, but as an observation of your continuing experiences living in small town alaska and a longing for great programming that fits every taste.

  14. Rodney

     /  March 4, 2009

    My favorite on NPR is “All Things Considered”. 🙂

  15. fmfan

     /  March 4, 2009

    Aliza, maybe someday KUAC will change its midmorning programming. Until then, you can podcast all NPR talk and news shows through iTunes. Then, if you get a little FM transmitter adaptor, you can use your iPhone to play the shows in the car! Easy peasy.

    • Can definitely use the iPod as a backup – I have the iTrip thingy and it works pretty well. I’m just liking the Public Radio Tuner via cell signal app since it is much more immediate. The podcasts are great for shows I love and during long stretches of Alaska highway w/o cell signal. And of course, that only works for archived shows and not for live announcements of Alaska happenings.

  16. Eric

     /  March 5, 2009

    I agree. My local NPR station (WHRV-FM) covers the talk portion of the spectrum (except for the evenings when they do some weird local music show) and their sister station WHRO-FM covers the classical music. They have also spun up two new digital stations that cover more talk and “alternative” music which isn’t very alternative.

    You might try shortwave. I know it sounds weird but I know lots of NPR and PRI programs that are being broadcast by the US Navy for Armed Forces Radio. I can give you additional information if you need it. Other than that your only hope is that some of the other NPR stations in and around Alaska will put AM transmitters on their equipment lists.

  17. I felt the same way when I lived in Juneau before there were 3 versions of KTOO. I realize that many people love classical, and they are very supportive of public radio in terms of donations. KHNS in Haines has a nightly classical show that ends just as I get back from work and the evening dog walk, whew.

    I’m glad you have the modern gadgets to let you hear other NPR stations, I’m hoping the get broadband to the rural areas of AK hits us so I can stream some other radio!

  18. I would love to hear from some of the Classical Music fans in Tok! As the Executive Director of the Sitka Summer Music Festival, I get to bring world-class internationally acclaimed musicians in from around the globe to remote areas of Alaska — if your community would like to host a concert, that would be wonderful.

  19. Winton M.

     /  March 26, 2009

    OMG, you got the attention of THE Jerry Evans!!!
    Speaking of Programming: there’s a big vacuum left by Dr. Dave’s departure from this planet. Who’s going to pick up the torch there? And, Bobi, forget the classical stuff, bring up the Sitka High School JAZZ band, that’s what we really want!

  20. I think ALL the radio stations here in AK are a little nutty.


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