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KCUR Plans to Launch 24-Hour Classical Music Station in Kansas City | KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is one of the few metropolitan areas its size in the country without a full-time classical music broadcaster.

This may be about to change.

KCUR 89.3 has signed an agreement to purchase KWJC 91.9 FM from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, with the intention of bringing 24-hour classical music programming to Kansas City. On Thursday, KCUR – Kansas City’s public radio station – filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to approve the purchase.

“Considering the strength of the performing arts community and the classical music community in town, we think this is a huge hole, both for the public and for performing arts organizations,” said said the director general of KCUR, Nico Leone. “We see market after market that classical music stations can be a rising tide for performing arts organizations. “

Over the past year, KCUR has strived to raise the approximately $ 5 million needed to purchase the station and cover start-up costs for the first few years. Leone said about half of the amount has been raised and that he expects the new classical music station to launch in the spring of 2020.

Credit KCUR 89.3

Nico Leone, Managing Director of KCUR, worked to find funding to purchase and operate a new classical music station for the Kansas City area.

“We were looking for a deal that made financial sense, that could provide a great new service to Kansas City that we know people are still missing, and that would have a positive impact on other arts organizations in Kansas City,” said Leone.

William Jewell College had leased the KWJC 91.9 signal to the Educational Media Foundation, a Christian radio network.

The college’s decision to sell was driven by its desire to be seen as an indispensable partner in Kansas City, said Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president of William Jewell.

“And so, as we looked at a signal that, quite frankly, had been leased by an entity that really has no connection with Kansas City, we realized that we had the opportunity to leverage that asset so that we could really make a contribution to the betterment of the region, “she said.” It really wasn’t something we had to contemplate for very long. “

Although KWJC’s license, like that of KCUR, is held by the University of Missouri Board of Trustees and awarded to UMKC, it will operate as a stand-alone entity separate from KCUR – although some back office functions will be shared. .

“If we are to do this it has to be a net positive for KCUR,” said Leone. “We can’t do this if it’s going to divert revenue.”

The two stations will operate in the same space at 4825 Troost in Kansas City, Missouri, in a building owned by UMKC. Leone said the plan is to hire eight or nine people, including advertisers, and create programming with a distinctly local focus.

“There’s no point in making a radio station like this into classical music if you’re not intensely focused,” he said. “When people can get music from anywhere, the only way to differentiate yourself is to connect with the local community.

“If you can listen from anywhere, you have to make it sound like you’re coming from somewhere to really make an impact and get people to hook up. So this local strategy is both a differentiator for us and a programming strategy as well as a way we can serve both our audience and the Kansas City arts community.

Leone played down fears that the classical music station was poaching listeners to KCUR’s public radio, citing studies showing that the overlap between news and classical music audiences is only around 15-20%.

“In Kansas City, about 24% of our target audience listens to classical music,” said Stephen Steigman, director of broadcast operations for KCUR, who was also involved in the KWJC acquisition plans. “But that doesn’t mean they will leave KCUR. They always want news and information. But classical music provides inspiration that you can’t get from a news station.

Following the launch of KWJC 91.9 as a classical music station, KCUR plans to drop its three hours of classical music programming on weeknights and replace its news broadcasts, Steigman said. KCUR will continue to broadcast non-classical music programs like Fish Fry on weekends.


Credit KCUR 89.3

Stephen Steigman is the director of broadcast operations for KCUR.

KWJC will not be broadcasting any news programs, “but we recognize that there is an opportunity for classical music listeners to learn more about KCUR and vice versa,” said Steigman. “There will be cross-promotional campaigns that will not interrupt formats.

About 70 public radio stations across the country offer fully classical music formats. 65 others offer a mix of current affairs and classical music.

It has been almost 20 years since KXTR, Kansas City’s only classical music station, was moved by its owner from FM to AM – shortly after it ended local programming in favor of a service by satellite.

Clark Morris, executive and artistic director of the Harriman-Jewell series, a local art presenter who is a branch of William Jewell College, said the absence of a classical music station in Kansas City had deprived the series of ‘a key communication vehicle.

“I think there is a huge opportunity for us to be able to deliver rich content for a large hungry audience,” he said.

Leone said he had spoken to most of the major classical arts organizations in town, “and universally the comments are that this is a great idea and how it can benefit their organizations and how we can help. associate with them. “

He added: “I think it will be a good thing for the community. There is an audience that we believe we can serve well. We believe we can do this in a way that is good for the community, good for arts organizations and good for KCUR.

Dan Margolies is a senior journalist and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

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