Houston, we have crashdown: classical radio wipes out its presenters

Houston, we have crashdown: classical radio wipes out its presenters


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2013

In what looks alarmingly like a copycat trend, the classical radio station in Houston, one of the richest US cities, has conducted a morning of the long knives, getting rid of all its established presenters. Apparently the last fundraising drive was ‘a colossal failure’. Who cares? Not Houston.



  • “a feasibility study to discern whether the Houston market could support a 24-hour classical station ”

    …And yet, it did. I know this because I spent many years helping to raise money for KUHF (before the acquisition of KUHA) when it was “classical music and NPR News.”.

    So now, Houston loses good people, and good people lose their jobs.

    I’m heartsick and disgusted.

  • Ron says:

    As a part-time classical music announcer in Boulder, CO, my heart goes out to these people. We’re not getting the message out. Community outreach, twitter, FaceBook, special programming, blogging, all are important. A recent study found that radio is still the preferred way for people to discover new music. Announcers’ programming is an important part in that. It’s much less effective trying to find new music on streaming services where you’re on your own – even with Social Network features.

  • joe salerno says:

    It seems ironic. Minnesota Public Radio is now going to provide classical music for Houston. The same Minnesota that can’t or won’t support the orchestra that carries its name is providing classical music for Houston. This just seems wrong.

  • Sergio Pallottelli says:

    So sad and disappointed. One of the only stations in the country with smart programs, knowledgable people running it, good people who are enthusiastic and supportive. Shame, shame on this otherwise wonderful city on letting this happen. Many of us did our share, during the fundraiser. Should have been more.

  • robcat2075 says:

    This makes me all the more amazed that Dallas has a commercial classical station, WRR, that can support itself with advertising revenue.

    • Even though Dallas is smaller than Houston, it’s a larger media market, because that also includes Fort Worth.

      For that matter, central Vermont — a *much* smaller market than either — has a commercial classical station.

      Also, many of the commercial classical stations are programmed (at least partly) remotely, although not necessarily from MPR, as Houston is doing.

      • Alas, Dallas’ WRR is hardly a model. Too many excerpted movements, announcers who think they’re clever and go on and on about utter inanities.

        Public-radio classical stations were the hot new thing in the 1970s. I worked for a pretty good one, WMHT in Schenectady, NY, for 11 years. I guess there are still a few decent ones here and there, but most I’ve heard about have gone to top-20 programming, much of it from satellite services. Sic transit gloria mundi.

    • WRR can be heard clearly throughout the huge metroplex of Dallas and Fort Worth, but they moved Houston classical to KUHA, a station barely powerful enough to be heard clearly in downtown Houston, let alone half of the suburbs. Of course there are declining ratings and support- it’s hard to listen to what you can’t hear! This was murder, not atrophy- a decision was made years ago to give priority to dismal NPR broadcasting over classical music. It’s all the more pity because they had a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the local arts community, particularly on The Front Row program which has been eliminated. Yet another case where the “crisis” in classical music stems from poor decisions made rashly and singlehandedly by the top managers.

  • It is not at all accurate to suggest that Houston doesn’t care about this move– regular listeners are in an uproar about these losses. The failure of the most recent fundraising campaign may have more to do with some listeners feeling alienated after the last round of cuts, which axed the long-time station manager and PR director. Little did we know it was only the beginning.

  • Steve zeserman says:

    The same thing happened here in San Antonio Texas a bit over a month ago to our 24 hour public radio station 88.3. They cut the announcers and started streaming classical music from Minnesota 🙁

  • Ed H says:

    So sad but we can only blame ourselves. I really never see a push to attract young people. We must all try to be evangelist of great music. Remember what people like Leonard Bernstein did to attract the young people in this country! In my case as one from a lower class immgrant family this was introduction.

  • One can only hope for a similar house-cleaning at KBAQ in Phoenix. More mispronounced terms and misinformation you cannot find than over its airwaves. Just yesterday, an announcer told us that the music we were about to hear was from “La Gioconda, a ballet.” Not “ballet music from the opera, La Gioconda,” but “La Gioconda, a ballet.” These sorts of mistakes are made all the time at KBAQ. I want classical radio to keep going, but I’d prefer announcers who know what the hell they’re talking about.

  • Ed H, I take issue with your comments in this particular case. I was one of the fired presenters and was known and widely acknowledged by the Houston community for my advocacy of classical music and musicians. On any given weekend, I could be seen out in the public evangelizing and sharing my love of great music anywhere someone would let me. When I started at the station 12 years ago, the percent of listeners who were under 30 was almost none and I am proud to say that when I left that figure had increased exponentially to something in the neighborhood of %25 (specifically in the 18-24 yo demographic). I grew up in a middle class American family. My introduction to classical music was, like many fellow citizens, a performance of the Nutcracker coupled with a strong presence of classical music on my Saturday morning cartoons. I have never forgotten the joy of discovering new music and have devoted what is now one third of my short life, to sharing that experience with ANYONE who would listen. I did my part. Prior to the arrival of the current CEO, Lisa Shumate, enjoyed the unending support of the former station manager, Debra Fraser who was included in a previous round of layoffs after 25 years of dedicated service. Make no mistake, there is a cancer at Houston Public Media and it originates with the former Belo executive who currently resides in the fancy CEO’s office on the second floor.