Response to RPA's Letter about the Morning Mix
The Listening Audience Calls the Shots
by Richard Pirodsky, Interim General Manager, KPFA
When I was considerably younger, a wise, old (though probably younger than I am now) program director told me: "For any radio station, the ultimate program director is the listening audience." Then as now, when a program airs has a great deal to do with the (primary) target audience and when that audience is available. Another major factor is the size of the audience available to the station at any given hour in the day.
As I stated in my report to the LSB*, 8am on weekdays provides KPFA with access to the greatest number of potential listeners (over six million) within its broadcast range. For the sake of the station's mandate to provide the greatest service to the various listening communities, and for the sake of the station's need to generate operating revenues, KPFA must try to offer programming with broad appeal to this largest audience of the day. If we instead air more narrowly focused programming, which attracts fewer listeners and fewer donations, there is no other time in the day when we can make up for the loss in listenership and revenue. It is the broadcasting equivalent of covering a solar panel during peak hours of sunlight and trying to make up for it by uncovering the panel at night.
For three years, each of the Morning Mix's seven hosts did what they could to take advantage of the large potential audience available at 8am. As the RPA's letter stated, the Mix presented "progressive initiatives in Richmond that communities throughout the region can relate to..." They can, but they have chosen not to. The listenership (as measured by our live streaming numbers) dropped precipitously from the preceding hour. And despite their best efforts, the Morning Mix hosts were unable to generate the type of revenue a station must demand of programming at 8am. Fund drive after fund drive, we would give the Mix every opportunity to show that its supporters could contribute at a level which would allow KPFA to meet its pledge drive goals. But inevitably, as the drives continued and the Mix came up short, it would have to be preempted by programming which could generate several times what the Mix could.
As a not-for-profit, KPFA does not need to generate the type of income required of commercial stations. But even a not-for-profit has to pay its bills. Still, that does not mean KPFA is abandoning its Richmond listeners or the Morning Mix hosts. Sabrina, Steve, Davy D,, Andres, Peter, and Mickey are still available, over-the-air and from the archives. And KPFA is able to offer the award-winning journalist Sonali Kolhatkar every weekday morning from 8-9am. Uprising generates the kind of listenership and fund drive numbers which allow us to offer other important programs which attract fewer listeners and less revenue. It is a balance we must strive to maintain in order to keep KPFA the active, on-going community service it has pledged to be.
* Richard Pirodsky also discussed the reasoning behind his morning-programming decision in a June 14 report to KPFA's Local Station Board.