Seattle’s classical KING-FM to replace ad revenues with listener contributions

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All-classical KING-FM in Seattle, one of the few remaining commercial classical stations in the country, plans to convert into a noncommercial, listener-supported public radio operation by July 2011. The station cited changes in media technology and declining ad revenues yesterday in announcing the change, which first must be approved by the IRS and the FCC. The station has suffered under Arbitron’s new Portable People Meter ratings methodology, according to the Seattle Times. KING-FM is operated by Beethoven, a nonprofit owned by three Seattle arts organizations; over the years its revenues have been converted into dividends for the Seattle Opera, the Seattle Symphony and the Arts Fund. “That vision worked well for a time, but the handwriting is on the wall,” said Christopher Bayley, board president. “With all the changes in media in the United States, commercial advertising is no longer a fit for KING.” Public Radio Capital’s Marc Hand tells the New York Times that the same audience demographics that undercut ad sales for classical radio stations make listener support a viable alternative. Older listeners are less appealing to advertisers but they are inclined to be loyal supporters of a classical public radio station. “I think this move really makes for a station that’s more economically viable,” Hand said.

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