KUT and Paste

KUT does major reconstructive surgery on its schedule, risking the wrath of change-phobic listeners.

If the howls of protest emitted by some KUT (90.5FM) listeners after last year's programming changes provide any indication, the public radio station's fans might go into complete shock after Jan. 28, when station management will initiate wholesale changes in the NPR affiliate's schedule.

Management began planning KUT's schedule overhaul primarily to accommodate two syndicated programs into the station's evening lineup: Marketplace, a business report distributed by Public Radio International, and The World, a world news program jointly produced by PRI, WGBH in Boston, and the BBC. Marketplace, which returns to KUT after a brief early Nineties run, will air weeknights at 6:30pm, and The World will take over the 7-8pm slot that had been occupied by a variety of programs. KUT will bump All Things Considered to 4pm, which in turn pushes Fresh Air up to 3pm.

But wait -- there's more. (See below for a complete list of changes.) The rescheduling chain reaction sends Car Talk to Saturday mornings, when most NPR affiliates air the show. In Austin, Car Talk needed some gas: Although it's the most successful show on public radio, station manager J. Stewart Vanderwilt said KUT, with its Monday evening airing, was the only station in the top 150 where it was a "failure." Folkways will begin an hour later, but will remain six hours long.

At least a few listeners will be happy to learn that Hayes McCauley's World Music show, which has been on a six-month hiatus (see We Are the World (Not), Aug. 24, 2001), will return on Sundays, bumping Texas Radio over to late Tuesdays. KUT stalwarts Paul Ray and Larry Monroe, and more recent additions Diane Donovan and Angela Miller, will replace the rotating cast of overnight deejays. And Soundsight, which featured newspaper and magazine articles being read for the benefit of blind listeners, is kaput. Got all that?

Vanderwilt defends KUT's radical, all-at-once show shuffling as ultimately preferable to incremental change. "By doing it all at once, certainly there will be an adjustment period," he said. "But if we did one [change] here, one there, it's sort of the death by a thousand cuts. ... Initially it seems like a lot, but ultimately people will adjust."

When asked why KUT needed the two new evening programs, Vanderwilt praised both for their quality. "Marketplace is a terrific daily business program that's not just for the businessperson," he said. "It'll take a relevant issue and explore how it affects those of us who don't know what a change in the prime rate means to us on an individual level. It takes all that jargon that gets thrown around in other media ... and either debunks it or explains what it means to us."

As for the The World, Vanderwilt says it's "probably one of the most significant programs to come along in public radio in the last five years -- a daily news magazine that looks at global as well as national issues and U.S. news, but from an international perspective, which increasingly is how we have to look at ourselves." Adds KUT program director Hawk Mendenhall, "It's produced with the BBC, which gives it a reach that is pretty amazing. The BBC, of course, has the largest radio reporting news network in the world."

While some of the station's moves will probably cause nothing more than mild disorientation for some listeners, Soundsight's cancellation might seem like a slap in the face to the blind. Vanderwilt insists that it's a legal necessity. "We don't have the rights to read these periodicals on the air," he says, referring to stories from publications ranging from the local daily to The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor and more. "To get the rights, if it was even possible, would take more resources than we could ever put into that type of program." Vanderwilt says throwing the Internet into the mix (KUT can also be heard on its Web site, www.kut.org) makes intellectual copyright issues even more unmanageable.

As compensation for dropping Soundsight, Vanderwilt says, KUT will actively promote a similar service by the Austin Council for the Blind. By using a special receiver, listeners will be able to tune in and listen to the council's daily broadcasts, run on part of KUT's frequency. The station also will work with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, a local nonprofit that distributes recordings of textbooks and educational materials.

Vanderwilt and Mendenhall realize some will grumble about KUT's newly reconfigured schedule, but they're confident that listeners will adjust. Full details of the changes are available on KUT's Web site at www.kut.org.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Lee Nichols
From the Music Desk
From the Music Desk
On Willie, Billy, Stevie Ray, Blaze, and more highlights from four decades of covering Austin music

Sept. 3, 2021

Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015


KUT, National Public Radio, NPR, Marketplace, The World, Public Radio International, WGBH, BBC, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Car Talk, J. Stewart Vanderwilt, Folkways, Hayes McCauley, World Music, Texas Radio, Paul Ray, Larry Monroe, Diane Donovan, Angela Miller

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle