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The KLOL documentary

Of interest to me, and other middle-aged guys like me.

This past week Houston filmmaker and blogger Mike McGuff released a trailer for his upcoming film about the late, great radio station, Rock 101 KLOL-FM, and it’s getting Houstonians of a certain vintage very excited for the finished product.

The story of the raunchy Houston radio phenomenon will be told in McGuff’s first documentary, with appearances from the likes of Outlaw Dave (one of the Texican’s creative mentors), Lanny Griffith, Colonel St. James, Pat Fant, David Sadof and even the late Jim Pruett of morning duo Stevens and Pruett in footage shot before he passed away in 2016.

To help with this long-gestating rock doc, McGuff, a former newsman, has turned to crowdsourcing platform IndieGoGo to bankroll some final nips and tucks for the promotional side of things. He’s hoping for a wide release in 2020, just in time for the station’s 50th anniversary. KLOL, formerly KTRH-FM, was born in 1970 as a progressive-rock station, evolved into a more structured album-oriented-rock and then classic-rock station before owner Clear Channel flipped it to Spanish-language in 2004.

As McGuff says, it has been a long journey to get this film in the can. When it comes to labors of love, sometimes time is the best ingredient.

“This project was only supposed to take a couple of years, at least that is what I told my very patient wife back in 2010,” McGuff says. “The years kept piling on as I kept chasing people for interviews, conducted a bunch of research, and waited for people’s photos and video to be found.”

As their onetime promo went, I admit it, I listened to Stevens and Pruett back in the day, and not just them. My enthusiasm for Dayna Steele’s Congressional campaign came very honestly, I assure you. I was right in the sweet spot of their demographic. Anyway, you can see a trailer for this here, and if you want to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, you can do that here. You know you want to.

KUHA sale completed

Say goodbye to classical music on your terrestrial radio.

Houston Public Media’s classical musical station transitions to an all-digital format starting at 9 a.m. Friday, July 15.

It’s a result of Christian radio station KSBJ agreeing to purchase the KUHA 91.7 FM signal from the University of Houston — which holds the license — in February 2016.

“We are happy that the ownership of KUHA will stay in local hands and we are excited about the future,” Houston Public Media Associate Vice President and General Manager Lisa Shumate said in a statement. “Houston Public Media’s commitment to multi-platform arts and culture content, in addition to classical music, is stronger than ever.”


KUHA 91.7 FM was purchased from Rice University for $9.5 million in 2010. Most of the classical music and arts programming produced by Houston Public Media moved to the new station, along with live broadcasts with the Houston Symphony, the Houston Grand Opera and local performing artists and groups. KUHF then adopted a 24-hour all news and information format.

See here for the background. KUHA continues to exist as an HD station, and of course there’s always streaming. But if you like to listen to classical music in your car, and you don’t have an HD receiver, you’re out of luck. And so it goes.

Former KTRU to become Christian station

Well, that’s different.

KSBJ Educational Foundation, which owns and programs noncommercial Christian music radio stations, acquired the 50,000-watt KUHA (91.7 FM). Subject to Federal Communications Commission approval, the station could switch from its current classical format to NGEN by late May or early June.

UH in 2010 acquired the station for $9.5 million from Rice University, where it was known for years as KTRU, and aired classical music on the signal before deciding last year to put the station on the market and move its classical programming to digital formats.

“It’s a good result for Houston because classical service continues and the station stays in the hands of local owners and experienced broadcasters,” said Lisa Shumate, general manager of Houston Public Media. “It enables us to continue to provide multi-platform arts and culture coverage and use our resources for continued focus in news and other local content initiatives.”


Classical music will continue on 91.7 FM until the sale is approved and also can be heard at KUHF (88.7 FM HD-2), the Houston Public Media mobile app, at, on over the air television at Channel 8.5 and through iHeartRadio and TuneIn and other free mobile applications.

We first heard about this last August. Whatever you think of the whole KTRU situation – and for what it’s worth, KTRU is back on the air, if you can find it – this now means there will no longer be a non-HD FM station devoted to classical music in Houston. That just feels wrong, but then no one asked me.

KTRU returns

On another frequency, with different call letters, and a less powerful signal. Other than that, it’s like it never left.

After five years off the radio dial, Rice University’s popular college radio station KTRU Rice Radio will return to FM on Friday (October 2).

Listeners located within approximately a five-mile radius of the school, stretching from 610 South to the Buffalo Bayou, will be able to enjoy the university’s station on 96.1 FM. After spending four years pursuing a new FCC-approved FM license — an effort spearheaded by Rice students, alumni, staff and community volunteers — the station will be able to broadcast on FM from an antenna placed atop Rice Stadium.

“Returning to the air is truly turning the page to a new chapter in KTRU’s history,” said one of KTRU’s music librarians, George Barrow, in a statement. “We’re returning to our roots with the on-campus, low-power transmitter.

“Not only is this an important step in KTRU’s story, but it’s also extremely important for the Houston music community, since no station on the FM dial right now focuses on exposing local and emerging talent quite like KTRU does. It’s amazing to be a part of this organization during one of its most important transitions.”

The station will also continue to broadcast live on the Internet through its website, as well as apps like i-Heart Radio and Tune-In.


The official call signs for the new Rice radio station are KBLT-LP since the KTRU call signs are currently licensed to a noncommercial station in La Harpe, Kansas, but the station will continue to be referred to as KTRU.

See here for the background. What do you think, travesty or victory? Leave a comment and let us know. The Press, the Chron, and Radio Survivor have more.

Houston Unites’ first ad

Not bad:

The story:


Supporters of Houston’s equal rights ordinance released their first official radio ad Friday, countering opponents’ claim that the law presents a public safety threat and seeking to reframe the debate before voters consider the issue in November.

The ad, airing on seven local stations during the next two weeks, features Servants of Christ United Methodist Church Rev. Will Reed tackling the message that critics of the law released last week in a one-minute radio spot. In the piece, a young woman said the non-discrimination ordinance allows men to enter women’s restrooms – which she called “filthy” and “unsafe.”

Critics of the law have long alleged that it would allow male sexual predators dressed in drag to enter womens’ restrooms.

“What’s being lost is that it’s already illegal to go into a bathroom to harm or harass someone,” Reed says in the ad. “This law won’t change that. We looked into it, and HERO is actually about providing a needed local tool to protect Houstonians from discrimination based on their race, religion, age, gender, military status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”

Houston Unites staff said the media buy cost about $100,000 and will air for two weeks on KHMX-FM, KKBQ/KTHT-FM, KODA-FM, KPRC-AM, KTRH-AM, RODA-FM and RTRH-AM.

That’s as much as the antis’ ad buy. If you listed to terrestrial radio in Houston, you’re probably not going to be able to avoid these ads for the foreseeable future. As for the content itself, it’s good, I like it. I hope it’s effective. There will be a lot more to the campaign than this, but it’s good to get this part of it going. Soundcloud link via Stace.

91.7 FM will be sold again

The radio station formerly known as KTRU will have another new home soon.

Houston Public Media, which operates the University of Houston’s broadcasting properties, says it will sell the frequency and transmitter for KUHA (91.7 FM) while retaining the station’s classical music format via online streaming and an HD Radio subchannel of KUHF (88.7 FM).

The university paid $9.5 million in 2010 to purchase 91.7 FM from Rice University, which operated the station as KTRU. It was relaunched as UH’s third broadcasting property along with KUHF, its news and National Public Radio outlet, and KUHT (Channel 8).

Lisa Shumate, general manager of Houston Public Media, said the decision to sell, which was approved by UH regents Thursday, reflected the organization’s need to focus on “the best piece of technology and the best use of donor funds.”

“We are already in HD and are streaming (with the classical music format),” Shumate said.

“Why would you pay for another transmitter and tower when if you take the time you can tell the public how they can get better sound using (HD Radio) at 88.7?”

See here for the KTRU story. I’m not going to relitigate any of that, but I suppose one could argue that if the frequency and transmitter no longer count as “the best piece of technology” out there because of HD radio, then Rice sold at the right time and probably got a pretty good price. That doesn’t address how the sale went down or any of the other issues around it, so I doubt that will make any KTRU backer any happier, but it’s something. KUHF, which had the story first, has more.

KTRU will be back

Awesome. And unexpected.

Rice University’s popular student-run radio station, relegated to the Internet when the university sold it in 2010, is returning to the airwaves.

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday approved the construction of a low-power FM broadcast station at Rice, signaling a return of the station that long highlighted local artists and other musicians rarely heard on the radio.


“KTRU is making its return to the FM airwaves!” station manager Sal Tijerina wrote in an email to station supporters. “By the end of this year, you can expect to tune into KTRU through an FM radio.”

The signal will cover about a five mile radius around Rice, Tijerina wrote.

The station is to be broadcast on 96.1 FM, the former home of KDOL, a country radio station that also broadcasts on 105.5 FM.

The story quotes former station manager Joey Yang saying that the plan was always for KTRU to come back. After almost four years away, I’m sure some folks had lost hope. According to their Facebook page, the call letters are yet to be determined. It will be weird if KTRU comes back under some other name, but that’s still better than them not coming back at all. It will be good to hear them again, if only withing five miles of campus. Swamplot, Rocks Off, and Free Press Houston have more.

Classic hip-hop

I got a good chuckle out of this.

News 92 FM, which until last week was the home of veteran newscasters J.P. Pritchard and Lana Hughes, is now Boom 92.1 FM, home of Geto Boys, Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg and Run-D.M.C.

Radio One, which owns three FM stations in Houston, at 5 p.m. Monday launched what it describes as the nation’s first major-market classic hip hop station on KROI (92.1 FM), which last Wednesday dropped its all-news format and filled out the week playing Beyonce songs.

It’s the newest entry in what remains a competitive but fragmented Houston radio marketplace in terms of dominant formats, and the second urban entry to debut this year, joining IHeartMedia’s KQBT (93.7 FM), which replaced classic rocker KKRW in January.


“We went from one Houston legend to another Houston legend,” said Doug Abernethy, Radio One’s Houston general manager.

Radio One also operates urban formats at KMJQ (102.1 FM) and KBXX (97.9 FM), which ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, among all Houston stations among listeners 12-plus in the most recent Nielsen Audio ratings, so the addition of a third urban format was not a surprise.

“It solidifies our commitment to urban radio,” Abernethy said. “Hip hop really started in the late 1970s, and we now have better than two decades of music to play.

“If you put it in general terms, you have rock and classic rock stations, country stations and classic country, and the hip hop format has now generated enough history to produce a classic hip hop station.”

Featured artists and songs on Boom 92.1 FM, whose website is, also will include Salt-N-Pepa (“Push It”), The Notorious B.I.G. (“Hypnotize”), and Queen Latifah (“U.N.I.T.Y.”)

Abernethy expects Boom 92.1 FM to be strongest among listeners ages 25-44, at the younger end of the adults 25-54 demographic that is one of the key buying markets.

Judging by my Facebook feed, I’d say they have a decent start on the 35-44 demographic. Nothing says “impending middle age” like having the music of your youth turned into a “classic” radio format, am I right? I’ve never been a hip-hop fan, but then I was never much of a fan of 80s pop music back in the day, and now my favorite satellite radio station is Sirius First Wave – classic alternative, yo. So who knows, maybe I’ll like hip-hop more now that it’s achieved elder status. Stranger things have happened; I’ll have to give it a listen at some point and see.

So good luck to Boom 92, and for those of you that enjoy this sort of thing, I hope it’s something you’ll like. My one word of caution would be that in my experience, all terrestrial limited-format radio stations eventually begin to suck, for the simple reason that they overdo it. What I mean by this is that over time they all seem to pare down their playlists to the point where any regular listener would be likely to get sick of the same old songs over and over again. It was the case with classic rock, it was the case with “classic 80s” stations like The Point, and it was the case with “like an iPod on shuffle” station Jack FM, which basically boiled down to a combination of the other two. What I said before about “classic rock” stations will, I suspect, hold true for “classic hip-hop”, sooner or later. Maybe I just don’t have any faith in corporate radio to deliver anything remotely fresh or original. Maybe I’m just too far outside the mainstream on this. Whatever the case, I’m becoming convinced that any terrestrial station that doesn’t mix in at least some new music is doomed to eventual mediocrity. Sirius, to its credit, at least has a playlist big enough to keep me from getting bored with First Wave so far, but I’ve only been listening for a few months. Ask me again in a year and I’ll let you know if it still holds true. I wish you Boom 92 listeners a good experience, but I’d advise you to prepare for disappointment down the line. Gray Matters has more.

Adios, Arrow

One less rock station on the air in Houston.

So instead of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy on 93.7, from now on you will probably hear Holy Grail by Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake. Just whatever you do, don’t let Timberlake get near Reliant Stadium and Janet Jackson again!

That’s because after 20 years, 93.7 The Arrow KKRW has flipped to an urban format with Beyonce as the first song. Fitting for Houston. 93.7 The Beat “H-Town’s Real Hip Hop and R&B” will target a heavy female audience with the likes of Rihanna, Jay Z, Drake, Chris Brown, Beyoncé and Miguel.

And the new station was taking swipes at market leader 97.9 The Box KBXX from the get go.

“93.7 The Beat is ready to write a new chapter in Houston radio history. We’re defining what real hip hop and R&B is,” said Eddie Martiny, President and Market Manager, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Houston. “Many of the biggest stars in this format live in Houston, so to move the station in this direction was a natural choice. In addition, The Beat format will perfectly complement the five other radio stations in our cluster by making us more attractive and diverse to our advertising community.”

The process started New Year’s Eve day 2013 at 10am. As I blogged earlier, the station started playing a wide variety of music from Miley Cyrus, Eminem to Oingo Boingo with pre-recorded announcements heralding the end of The Arrow and that a new station would arrive at noon (SEE THE LAST THREE SONGS THE ARROW PLAYED).

KKRW wasn’t technically the first “classic rock” station in Houston. At least as far as I know, which is to say going back to 1988 when I arrived in Houston, that would have been the late 107.5 KZFX, which didn’t market itself as “classic rock” but played an era-specific list of songs from the 60s and 70s, tending towards the British Invasion stuff (the Animals, Cream, Procol Harum) and later acts with a similar sound. KKRW was Classic Rock and all that name implies from the get go, and the market couldn’t support both of them plus KLOL, so KZFX eventually went a different way, first into new wave/alternative rock (The Buzz), then switching formats with oldies station 94.5, before melding with 106.9 to become dominant Classic Rockers The Eagle, which included a landing place for former KKRW Wacky Morning DJs Dean and Rog. I can’t say I’m surprised that once again, the market couldn’t keep two Classic Rock stations afloat, even if there isn’t a KLOL equivalent out there any more (and holy crap, it’ll be ten years since KLOL switched formats next November).

Unlike the KLOL change, which by that time didn’t affect me much but was a punch in the gut to my memories, this change doesn’t really mean anything to me. I was never more than an occasional listener to KKRW, as even in the early days I thought their playlist was too narrow and predictable. About the only time I listen to the radio is in my car, and with my shorter commute and non-driving lunchtimes, that ain’t much these days. I keep the dial on KACC except for those times when its signal is too messed up or when they’re broadcasting a high school football game. I still think there’s room in this town for a rock station that doesn’t suck, but that dream becomes less and less likely with each passing day. Any Arrow fans out there that are in mourning over this? Leave a note in the comments if so.

Still rocking at KACC

I have three things to say about this.

Alvin Community College’s little radio station that could is a welcome bright spot in an increasingly bleak terrestrial radio landscape.

With only 5,600 watts of power and a staff made up almost exclusively of students, 89.7 FM KACC plays an eclectic mix of rock ‘n’ roll that gives those of us nostalgic for the good old days of FM radio a good reason not to ditch the dial entirely.

Don’t tune in if you are looking for Top 40 hits or pop or any of the other formats that now seem to dominate FM radio. But if you’re looking for deep tracks off of rock albums from the 1960s to the present, I would recommend entering KACC into your station presets.

“We’ll play some Hendrix, but it’s not going to be Purple Haze,” station manager Mark Moss says. “We’ll get very deep in the library – ‘If 6 Was 9,’ ‘Castles Made Of Sand.’ We’ll play Lynyrd Skynyrd, but it’s ‘The Ballad of Curtis Loew.’ It’s not going to be ‘Free Bird.’ ”

Moss is the sole employee of the station, which in effect makes him, as he puts it, “station manager, music director, program director, engineer, production director, janitor.”

He’s a veteran of FM rock radio and was on the air at Houston’s legendary rock station KLOL (which now plays Spanish Pop) before signing on at KACC in 1991.

Admittedly, a station like KACC, which is funded by the college and doesn’t have to chase advertising revenue, has an advantage over other stations on the dial. It can take risks, stretch the format a little, “have a little more fun with it,” Moss says.

But he is firmly convinced that commercial radio has lost it’s way and partly has itself to blame for losing listeners to satellite and the Internet.

1. I agree with everything the story says about KACC and the niche it fills in Houston’s radio wasteland. I also agree that the weak signal is a problem. Some days it’s just unlistenable, and there’s no pattern to it that I can see. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, what the weather is like, or where I am in the city. Some days it’s clear, some days it’s static and interference from other low-wattage stations.

2. What I wrote four years ago about how to make a radio station that doesn’t suck still rings true to me today. The main difference is that now I see less risk in anyone trying it. Terrestrial radio is a declining business. There can’t be much downside in turning a low-performing station in a market like Houston into something more old school and less corporate. If it doesn’t catch on in a year or so, go ahead and turn it into whatever canned formula is the next hot thing. What does a Clear Channel have to lose by trying?

3. For the love of God, please someone volunteer to do a makeover on KACC’s laughably pathetic webpage. Throw up a WordPress template or borrow a design from somewhere else, just please create something that looks like it belongs in this century and not on a mothballed Geocities webpage. Sheesh.

Jazzing it up

A little plug for my alma mater.

KRTU knows how to throw a public party.

The Trinity University radio station kicked off a yearlong celebration of the arts in general and jazz in particular Sunday afternoon and evening at the Sunken Garden Theater.

Designed to commemorate the beginning of the station’s 10th year of airing a jazz-driven format, the multimedia event was called “Sunday in Brackenridge Park: Jazz Family Showcase.” It featured dancers, drummers, actors, singers, Mayor Julián Castro reading to kids, the San Antonio Symphony and the premiere of the “San Antonio Jazz Suite,” commissioned by KRTU and written by KRTU disc jockey/pianist Aaron Prado.

“I think it’s great to get this kind of community involvement,” said Barbara Hill, director of programs at the Southwest School of Art, one of 20 nonprofit organizations that have teamed with KRTU for the “Year of Jazz.” “It’s great that we can bring awareness to each other.”

When I was a student, KRTU played mostly vanilla classical music during the day, and switched to jazz at night, which was largely DJ-driven and thus pretty eclectic. The switch to all jazz has been a huge success, with an increase in listeners and greater involvement in the community. It helps that Trinity has a full-fledged communications department, but it’s still a student-run station. Well done, y’all.

KUHA debuts Monday

KTRU is now off the air, but 91.7 on your dial won’t be dead air for much longer. KUHA, the spawn of the KUHF takeover of 91.7, begins broadcasting Monday.

KUHA Classical programs will include The Front Row, Exploring Music, Metropolitan Opera, Performance Today and From the Top plus recordings from Houston cultural institutions such as the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera.

KUHF News will offer programming from NPR, American Public Media, PRI and the BBC, in addition to local news, weather and traffic.

As I said at the beginning of this saga, having a real 24-hour news station in town is good. Sacrificing KTRU to get it, especially given the gallons of effluvia elsewhere on the dial, is not. But like it or not, it’s what we’ve got now.

KTRU’s last day will be Thursday


Last week the FCC approved a license transfer from Rice University to the University of Houston which was the end of the road for Rice’s student-run KTRU/91.7 radio station. [Wednesday] came news of the shut off date. KTRU will no longer be broadcast from 91.7 starting at 6 a.m. on April 28.

KTRU plans to continue its programming on KPFT 90.1 HD2 and streaming online at

Save KTRU mentioned it as well. Mark your calendars.

FCC approves KTRU sale

It’s official now.

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday approved the controversial sale of Rice University’s radio station, KTRU, to the University of Houston.

The decision comes after a group called the Friends of KTRU filed a petition and three radio listeners submitted objections hoping to scuttle the deal. They argued the sale violated FCC rules and state law because it was not in the public interest, but the FCC, in its order, said the sale was “consistent with the public interest, convenience and necessity.”


Rice student and KTRU station manager Joey Yang said he wasn’t happy with FCC decision.

“It’s disappointing in terms of the FCC preaching localism and local programming,” Yang said. “In the decision they said programming content was not their concern. It seems contradictory.”

In the petition, supporters argued that the change of format contradicted the commission’s policies promoting local programming. The FCC, however, found no grounds for the objections.

“Although the commission recognizes that the station’s program format has attracted a devoted listenership, it is well-settled policy that the commission does not scrutinize or regulate programming, nor does it take potential changes in programming formats into consideration in reviewing assignment applications,” the decision states.

You can read the FCC’s decision here. Not surprisingly, Save KTRU isn’t happy with it.

The decision shows a lack of commitment on the part of the FCC to its own public statements regarding the importance of localism and diversity in American broadcast media.

If the segment of the FM radio dial reserved for noncommercial stations is now also subject to the unobstructed machinations of the free market, it is highly likely that local voices will increasingly disappear from American broadcast radio. Indeed, evidence of such a trend is already overwhelming, and it is quite clear that market forces are promoting uniformity at the expense of diversity. Only through protection by a government agency properly enforcing its mandate to regulate this resource on behalf of the public, and thus maintaining sources of relevant locally produced programming, will such stations continue to exist and enrich the public cultural discourse of their communities.

The degree to which a station serves its local community can be evaluated independently of its particular format. We propose that in the future, the FCC not hold itself hostage to outmoded precedents running contrary to its stated goals, but instead consider and base its regulations and actions on what is truly in the public interest, to spare other communities the fate of a media bereft of meaningful local voices.

KTRU has been broadcasting on KPFT’s HD radio channel and will continue to do so. It’s not been determined yet when new station KUHC will be up and running, but according to Rocks Off, Rice and UH have ten business days to transfer the money from the sale. One way or another, the era of KTRU on 91.7 is at the end.

More on the KTRU/KPFT deal

After I read about the KTRU/KPFT deal, in which KTRU will broadcast over one of KPFT’s HD radio channels, I wondered what the folks at Save KTRU thought of it. At the time I posted, there wasn’t anything on the website about the deal, but there is now:

Friends of KTRU, a group of students, alumni and community members devoted to stopping the assignment of KTRU’s non-commercial (NCE) FM license, as well as KTRU’s student management, reject any notion that the dispute over the future of KTRU’s FM license and transmitter has been resolved by the agreement, announced today, regarding the simulcasting of KTRU’s programming on KPFT’s HD2 channel.

“HD radio is better than no radio,” said KTRU Station Manager Joey Yang, “but is orders of magnitude less viable than our current FM broadcast.”

Potential and actual listenership of HD radio is a fraction of that of conventional FM radio, and reception of HD radio broadcasts requires the purchase of a specialized receiver, putting it out of the reach of those with limited financial means.

The FCC has not yet ruled on Friends of KTRU’s Petition to Deny the transfer of KTRU’s FM license. Both Friends of KTRU and KTRU’s student management remain committed in their opposition to any sale of KTRU’s assets.

That quote by station manager Joey Yang seemed to contrast with what he had said in the earlier Chron story:

“We’re excited,” said Joey Yang, KTRU station manager and a junior at Rice. “We think HD radio is going to be a viable option for us.”

I was curious about that, so I sent him an email and asked him to elaborate. This is what he said to me:

Yes, I’m happy with the deal. HD radio, as I’ve said before, is better than no radio. We realize the value of FM, though, and still seek to deny the transfer of the license. That’s still the main goal. HD radio is still an up-and-coming technology, hence my comments in the Friends of KTRU release, but it’s important to note that FM was an up-and-coming technology once upon a time. So, to clarify, FM is much more ubiquitously available than HD radio, but I, and the DJs at KTRU, are very excited about the possibilities that HD radio holds.

Fair enough. I also asked him what will happen to the KPFT deal if the FCC ultimately denies the sale of KTRU’s license, as SaveKTRU and others have advocated:

If the FCC denies the sale of KTRU, then I guess we’ll have both an HD stream with KPFT and an FM stream. Two is certainly better than zero.

So there you have it.

KTRU deal signed

Just in time for Rice’s homecoming weekend.

[Wednesday] afternoon, Friends of KTRU announced they had been informed that Rice and UH have signed an agreement to transfer the station’s ownership, and have retained the law firm of Paul Hastings in an attempt to thwart the sale.

B.J. Almond, Rice Senior Director of News and Media Relations, confirmed to our sister blog Rocks Off by phone that the agreement has been signed.

The announcement came in a letter from Rice President David Leebron to Rice students, faculty and alumni, he said.

In the letter, President Leebron said the sale will now go before the FCC for approval, a process that may take several months.

“We will consult with KTRU’s student managers about the timing for turning the tower over to KUHF, but we expect that to occur by the end of the semester or calendar year,” Leebron said in an excerpt from the letter posted on Rice’s Web site. “In the meantime, KTRU will continue to deliver its programming on 91.7 and online through”

Not surprisingly, KTRU supporters saw it a little differently.

“It is shameful that the Rice University administration has not heeded the thousands of voices asking to stop the sale of KTRU,” KTRU station manager Joey Yang said in the Friends of KTRU statement. “Instead, Rice has chosen to throw away more than 40 years of student-run tradition in favor of a new cafeteria for the campus. For this reason, we must pursue legal avenues for stopping the sale.”

I can’t say I expected anything to come from the valiant efforts to save KTRU, but for those who were invested in it this is the end of that chapter. I have a feeling there’s going to be some unrest among the alumni this weekend. Leebron’s letter is reproduced beneath the fold.


RIP, Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens, one half of the Stevens and Pruett radio team, has passed away.

Stevens spent 40 years in radio but enjoyed his greatest success in partnership with Pruett, first as Hudson and Harrigan at KILT (610 AM) beginning in 1974 and later under their own names at KULF-AM, KEGL-FM in Dallas-Fort Worth and KLOL (101.1 FM) in Houston.

At every stop along the way, he displayed the sense of humor and razor-sharp wit that remained with him throughout his struggle with Alzheimer’s, said his wife, Melissa Stevens.

“His laugh was infectious, and people responded to that,” she said. “He would laugh, and then everybody would laugh. Even through his illness, he had the caregivers laughing all the time. … He handled (Alzheimer’s) with dignity and grace.”

Stevens left KLOL in February 2000, but Melissa Stevens said Houston listeners never forgot his voice.

“He would be in a grocery store and would say something, and people would say, ‘Wait a minute, I know your voice,'” she said. “We have such good memories.”

To borrow from one of their tag lines, I admit it, I was an S&P fan back in the day. They made my morning commute a lot more enjoyable. Rest in peace, Mark Stevens.

Friday random ten: That’s just crazy

So I was sitting with my laptop trying to be inspired for this week’s Friday list, and it occurred to me that the girls had been driving us a little crazy all weekend. And thus was I inspired.

1. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
2. Let’s Go Crazy – Storybox
3. Crazy – Patsy Cline
4. A Crazy Little Tune – Nevada Newman
5. Crazy For You – Madonna
6. Crazy Island – John Mellencamp
7. Crazy Game – Indigo Girls
8. She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals
9. Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon
10. Crazy Man Michael – Ceili’s Muse

What’s driving you crazy these days?

Entire song list report: Started with “Love Shack”, by the B-52s. Ended with “Mamma Mia”, from the “Mamma Mia” soundtrack. It’s sung by Meryl Streep, but nowadays I hear it in Olivia or Audrey’s voice, because “Mamma Mia” – the movie, as well as the soundtrack – is their favoritest thing ever. Anyway, it’s song #3218, so that’s 105 tunes this week. The last L song was “Lying Still”, by Electric Youth. The first M song was “M-O-N-E-Y”, by Lyle Lovett, or if you prefer, “Ma and Pa”, by Fishbone.

Ripping vinyl report: Deep Purple’s “Machine Head”. I discovered both the band and the album back in college while listening to San Antonio’s one-time metal-oriented KXZL. That station morphed into classic-rock pioneer KZEP around the time of my senior year, and the songs off of this album were a fit for each incarnation. There’s probably a master’s thesis in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it to someone with more free time on his or her hands. I’ve also got a copy of “Perfect Strangers”, which got play on KXZL but not KZEP, since 80s music didn’t become classic until some time in the late 90s, but that will have to wait till next week.

What about the classical music?

This Chron story adds a dimension to the KTRU debate that I haven’t seen discussed before.

Classical music fans in the city’s southern and western suburbs may not be able to hear the station intended to serve their interests.

“It’s all static,” Clear Lake resident Jay Bennett said of the radio signal that would be designated for classical music and arts programming if the deal goes through. “It seems odd that they would degrade their (classical music) signal and alienate a lot of their listeners.”


[N]ot everyone in the sprawling metropolitan area now served by KUHF would be able to hear static-free programming on the new station, which would be renamed KUHC.

The 50,000-watt KTRU tower is north of Bush Intercontinental Airport, with its signal reaching about 30 miles in all directions, UH spokesman [Richard] Bonnin said.

Some people can hear it farther out, depending on the terrain and the listeners’ radio equipment.

KUHF’s 100,000-watt transmitter in Missouri City reaches 50 miles or more in all directions, Bonnin said.

The university knew about the limits to KTRU’s reach when it began negotiations for the transmitter and license, he said.

Their proposed solution to this is HD radio, which is to say pretty much what had existed before for those wanted classical or NPR 24/7. I have three questions:

1. How expensive would an upgrade to a 100Kw transmitter be? My guess is “very”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not feasible.

2. Would there be any technical reason why KTRU couldn’t be upgraded to 100Kw? Like another station nearby on the dial whose signal would be obliterated by a stronger one at 91.7, for example.

3. If the transmitter cannot be upgraded for whatever the reason, would this be grounds for the FCC to disapprove the sale?

I don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking. If you do know, please leave a comment.

The KTRU rally

The Houston Press, which has largely owned this story, reports from today’s rally to save KTRU.

Early this afternoon, protesters met at Valhalla, Rice’s on-campus pub, to make signs and t-shirts for the protest before marching as a group to the statue of William Marsh Rice in near triple-digit heat. The timing of the protest and the weather no doubt kept some people away, but the event was still 100-plus strong, with people lining the perimeter of the quad where trees provided shade.

Event organizers also set up tents, handed out cold water and gave away noisemakers to the protesters. Tables held “Save KTRU” stickers, petitions and poster-making supplies.

Even before the event started, one “KTRUvian” climbed atop the Willy statue to speak. “If we don’t take a stand now, nothing will ever change,” he said. “I invite you to create a little chaos.” He then had to be asked to climb down by the rally’s organizers, who had a tight schedule of speakers to get through.

Student DJ Joey Yang, who helped organize the rally, spoke of Rice’s upcoming 100-year anniversary and the station’s 40-year history as a student-run entity. He said he’d learned that over a year ago Rice began looking for someone to take the station “off of their hands,” to which someone in the audience angrily replied “It’s not their station!”

Yang said the University had adopted a new slogan for it’s anniversary “Unconventional Wisdom”.

“KTRU embodies what a Rice University education is supposed to be about.”

The Chron has some photos; they also opined about the sale.

Another UH rationale for the purchase was to increase the capacity of KUHF to produce quality local programming. In the past, critics have judged both KUHF’s classical music programs and local news and public affairs programming mediocre at best.

Simply adding another broadcast station at UH won’t solve that problem. It’s going to take strong leadership and talent, something that doesn’t automatically come with a new broadcasting tower and frequency. If the sale goes through, the ultimate justification for the expenditure must be a sharp upgrade in the quality, rather than the quantity, of programming.

Recent history suggests that’s not going to happen. I’m rooting for that outcome, too, but I can’t say I’ll be surprised to be disappointed.

I guess the question I have at this point is, how exactly do the Save KTRU folks hope to affect the final outcome? Both boards of regents have voted to go ahead with the sale. There’s a 30-day public comment period, after which the FCC must give its approval, but what are the odds that it won’t? More to the point, what are the conditions under which they won’t? (Yeah, there’s the Open Meetings Act issue, but 1) that’s a question for the Attorney General, not the FCC, and 2) far as I know, nobody has asked the Attorney General to investigate that yet.) I don’t see what leverage exists for those who oppose the sale. The Burn Down Blog suggests Rice President David Leebron is prepared for the possibility of losing the fight over KTRU, but he doesn’t suggest how Leebron might lose it. I admire the passion of the KTRU supporters, but I don’t know what their plan is. How exactly are they going to achieve the result they want? Help me out here, because I don’t see it.

UPDATE: More photos from the rally here.

UPDATE: And here’s the Chron story of the rally.

KTRU rally

For those who are into that sort of thing.

Join us in a peaceful, non-violent protest to Save KTRU this Sunday, 2:00 pm at Rice University, in the Academic quad in front of the statue of William Marsh Rice. The rally will feature speeches from station manager Kelsey Yule, community DJ Greg Starks, specialty show DJ Lindsey Simard, Rice University/KTRU alumnus Heather Nodler, Rice student DJ Kevin Bush, and more! Wear your KTRU t-shirt, make a clever picket sign, bring your friends, and be prepared to make some noise for college radio.

There will be an informal pre-protest gathering before the rally starting at 11am, Sunday, August 22nd, at Valhalla in Rice University where you can help us make signs, write chants, and print t-shirts before we walk over to Willy’s statue at 1:30pm.

I have no idea how effective any of this will be – the protests, the Facebook page, the petition, the Twitter feed, and of course the webpage – but I have a pretty good idea of where it’s coming from. Rice students and alumni, at least the ones with whom I am acquainted (I was a grad student at Rice and have been a member of the MOB since 1988; I have many Rice alumni friends and I root for Rice sports teams), take a lot of pride in the fact that the place is a bit different, a bit weird, a bit offbeat, and very much not for everyone. It’s a critical aspect of the Rice identity, that it is Not Like Anyplace Else. KTRU, along with things like the colleges, Beer Bike, the MOB, the honor system, is a cornerstone of that. Take KTRU away, especially in this unilateral, out of the blue fashion, and big piece of that identity crumbles. Now Rice is that much more like everybody else, and I don’t know a single Owl who wants it that way. It doesn’t matter if you ever worked at KTRU or even if you ever listened to it – I’d bet a chunk of money a lot of my alumni friends spent very little time with their radios tuned to 91.7 – it’s that KTRU was there and it was unique and it made Rice stand apart. And now it’s going away, and people feel betrayed. I really don’t have a dog in this fight – I’ve never listened to KTRU, and none of this is part of my identity – but I sure do understand where the protesters are coming from, and I have a lot of sympathy for them.

And there’s the secrecy of the deal, too.

“I am shocked, betrayed and disgusted by how the Rice administration handled the sale,” says Rose Cahalan, Rice and KTRU alumnus. “They did it swiftly and secretly, without consulting faculty, staff or students, or even informing us until the day it happened. This secrecy was clearly designed to prevent any protests from being effective–there just wasn’t time to act. A ‘Call to Conversation’ was a major component of President Leebron’s Vision for the Second Century, and this utter lack of dialogue clearly violates that supposed value.”

“Hopefully, if nothing else, Rice is going to get a black eye over their handling of this — it’s just so underhanded,” [former DJ Matt] Brownlie says. “It baffles me that a university with the prestige and seemingly progressive leanings would pull something like this on their own students … it’s so disrespectful, like they are saying, ‘Go on and do whatever campus and community work that interests you — until we decide to make money off of it.'”

“Gotta love that they decided this when no students were around,” commented alum Stephanie Taylor. “Reminds me of when they decided to charge hundreds for parking during finals. The only difference is that then Rice at least had the courtesy to tell the students what was happening instead of letting them read about it in the news.”

Alum Teresa Monkkonen agrees, “It’s not just about the radio station, it’s about not involving any talking to students before making this decision and killing a student club at the expense of the bottom line.”

I don’t think there’s any way the administration could have presented this that would have been widely accepted – again, selling off a piece of your identity is a big deal – but for the community to hear about it in the newspaper is a slap in the face. People would have been sad and upset, and would have pushed back no matter what, but not to get the courtesy of being informed directly by the administration, that’s got to be driving a lot of the anger.

So, while I like the idea of having a real news radio station in Houston again, I hope the groundswell against this action by the Rice administration leaves its mark. Show up for the protest, threaten to never donate another dime, pursue the potential Open Meetings Act violation, write impassioned open letters, I wish you luck. One hopes that at the very least, the administration will learn a little respect.

UPDATE: You can also say good-bye to Rice University Press, though I doubt anyone will get too worked up about it.

Reactions to the KTRU sale

Unsurprisingly, the Rice community is not happy.

“We are totally opposed to the sale,” said Joey Yang, a junior at Rice and program director of the station, which relies upon student and community volunteers for its eclectic music programming. “This is our radio station, and we’d like to keep it.”


KTRU launched a campaign against the sale Tuesday, urging supporters to flood Leebron and other administrators with “sincere and civil” protests.

Kelsey Yule, a Rice junior and KTRU station manager, said she had e-mailed Leebron and tried to call other administrators, to no avail as of late Tuesday.

“So many people are devastated that they won’t be able to listen on their commutes or at work anymore,” she said.

Wi-Fi access is widely available on campus, so students still will be able to tune in, she said. “But we really consider ourselves a cultural institution for the city.”

Rocks Off rounds up a bunch of reactions from local music scene folks, and nobody thinks the transition of KTRU to Internet-only is a win. Among the points raised are that very few people can listen to an online radio station in their car, and that nobody will want to work an overnight shift any more – why bother, when you can just make a podcast? At least with terrestrial radio, you can believe someone is awake with you and listening in.

Linda Thrane, vice president for public affairs at Rice, said administrators will meet with students about the issue, although no date has been set.

“We want to hear their ideas about what we can do to make the internet station better,” Thrane said.

She acknowledged that some students are upset about the proposed sale.

“KTRU is not going away,” she insisted. “It’s going to remain a student-managed operation. The students aren’t losing anything.”

Well, no, as noted above they are losing something – a much wider audience and influence over the local music scene, among other things. The administration would know this if they had involved any of the stakeholders in the process, which is of course another bone of contention here. I don’t think the administration fully appreciates how much of the discontent is driven by that.

More on K12RadioHouston

The Chron writes about HISD’s plan for an Internet radio station.

While the station will be professionally run, students will have a role in producing content. Music will dominate the waves, but school performances, athletic events and news announcements will also be broadcast.

Formatting and commercials will target families of the district’s 202,000 students and 30,000 employees.

“We are a demographic in our own right,” said Lee Vela, HISD’s chief district relations officer.

HISD signed a one-year contract with [RFC Media]. The agreement comes with no cost to the district, which will pocket 50 percent of the proceeds.

Much of this you already knew. There are some concerns expressed in the story about advertising and what kids may be exposed to, but I don’t think that will amount to much. As I’ve said before, I like this idea and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s implemented.

HISD Radio

This, from the inbox, sounds very cool:


The nation’s first custom radio station created for a major school district

(Houston, Texas) No radio tower or transmitter necessary! The Houston Independent School District (HISD) begins live Internet streaming of K12RadioHouston in July of 2010 in preparation for students returning to class in the fall. The station’s 24/7 custom programming opens a new door to welcome parents, staff and the extended family of HISD. Listeners will enjoy a wide range of music while hearing about the many facets of Texas’ largest, and the nation’s 7th largest school district.

Streaming radio stations over the Internet have come a long way. The latest research shows that 60 million Americans listen to Internet radio every week. K12RadioHouston is an example of new online programming that is built around a strong common interest. With more than 200,000 students and 30,000 employees, K12RadioHouston is relevant to nearly a million area residents.

HISD has tapped Houston’s RFC Media to design and produce its new custom radio station. “The move to online sources of music and entertainment is exploding, so why not build a station around a community that shares a common interest, like the education of our children,” said RFC Co-Founder and Houston radio veteran Pat Fant.

First, the music has to be right, and that’s where RFC’s President and Chief Programmer – Cruze – comes in with true music variety not routinely found on ordinary radio. “Our roots go very deep in the cross-cultural and genre-specific categories that will help keep K12RadioHouston balanced and tuned for long periods of listening and entertainment. This is our specialty and there is no substitute for it, “said Cruze.

“We’ll embed news items of interest around the music to spotlight the District’s exceptional students, teachers and too often unnoticed accomplishments. Did you know HISD even has a program for students to earn a pilot’s license? A student may be licensed to fly a plane before they can drive a car,” Fant added.

Sponsor support of K12RadioHouston will be a new source of revenue to the school District. RFC Media will be seeking sponsor support from area business leaders for the nation’s first full-time custom radio station created for a major school district. To maximize the value for sponsors, the station will be easily accessed across the mobile digital networks with a custom iPhone application that enables one-touch listening anywhere to K12RadioHouston.

Channel 11, KHOU-TV is the television partner for K12RadioHouston. Listeners will access the station through a link on as well as through the District’s own website at “KHOU is proud to be the exclusive media partner for K12RadioHouston. We understand the role that education plays not only in our children’s future, but in the future of this great city. That’s why we are excited to help provide this innovative and family-oriented content to our community,” said KHOU’s President & General Manager Susan McEldoon.

HISD’s Chief District Relations Officer Lee Vela said, “This gives our schools a place to spotlight school events, and it’s a great opportunity for HISD students who are preparing for media careers to produce radio programming. The communications magnet students at Jack Yates High School are a good example.”

I had a lot of questions about this, and was fortunate to get a chance to sit down with Pat Fant and throw all of those questions at him. Here’s what he said to me.

Download the MP3 file

I’m looking forward to seeing how this all comes together. It’s a great idea, and I hope it’s a big success.

Spending on voter outreach: The Mayorals

I didn’t take a look at the Mayoral candidates’ expenditures on voter outreach in the 30 days out reports, as this exercise is rather time consuming, but I figured I’d have a look at the 8 day reports, just to see what we’ve got going into the home stretch.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Annise Parker 9,365.91 Research (Celinda Lake) Annise Parker 500.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 175,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 75,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 1,750.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 780.30 Ad (KCOH) Annise Parker 1,789.25 Ad (KROI & KMQJ) Annise Parker 40,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller)

Parker reported a bit over $500K in spending on this form, after having reported $738K spent on the 30 days form. $410K of this spending, more than 80%, is on TV. I saw two media buys from Rindy Miller in the 30 days form, worth $500K; there may have been more, but that form was 414 pages long, and I just did a search on “Rindy” to spot-check it. I assume the “Research” entry is for her recent poll. Those radio buys are small compared to Locke and Brown, but since she’s not engaged in an authenticity contest as they are, perhaps they’ll have a greater effect. Parker was one of many candidates who placed an ad in Gary Polland’s Texas Conservative Review; my understanding is that this is for a printed document that will be mailed to some number of households. As all of the others I’ve seen so far with this expense have been Republicans, I presume Parker will tout her fiscal conservative credentials and leave it at that.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Gene Locke 28.89 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 25,000.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,000.00 Media production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 225.75 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 677.25 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 20,319.00 Printing Gene Locke 2,281.68 Robocalls Gene Locke 6,000.00 Video production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Gene Locke 4,300.00 Ad (Houston Style Magazine) Gene Locke 50,160.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 95,670.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 54,862.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 10,649.50 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 13,584.05 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 15,747.20 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 165,770.25 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 6,300.00 Media/newspaper (Adelante) Gene Locke 250.00 Ad (Linda Lorelle scholarship fund) Gene Locke 100.00 Ad (KEW Learning Academy) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 1,500.00 Ad (The Houston Sun) Gene Locke 903.00 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 1,755.00 Ad (African-American News & Issues) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 36,641.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 22,858.65 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 139,953.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 27,005.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 17,721.40 Printing Gene Locke 2,295.30 Robocalls Gene Locke 5,177.10 Research (Stanford Campaigns) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 38,251.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 2,625.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 14,474.98 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 162,966.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 11,853.40 Printing Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 49.00 Ad ( Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 17,799.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,749.80 Robocalls Gene Locke 34.37 Web ad (Domino's Pizza) Gene Locke 23,500.00 Polling Gene Locke 2,205.00 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 46,800.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 5,725.56 Door hangers Gene Locke 16,235.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 36,120.80 Printing Gene Locke 800.00 Ad (NAACP - Houston) Gene Locke 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMEC)

Clearly, Locke is leaving no stone unturned. Everything from Facebook to African-American newspapers (no doubt to boost his standing in the community) to TV and radio. Bear in mind that some of that money spent on TV was for ads that ran much earlier in the month; we knew about them before the 30 day reports came out, but the expenditure wasn’t listed in that report. As such, while Locke outspent Parker on TV in this report, she has spent more than him overall. Adelante, which I believe is campaign manager Christian Archer’s outfit, is big on field work/GOTV, which is how one can wind up buying nearly $50,000 worth of door hangers. There were many, many entries relating to paid field workers, which I skipped to maintain my sanity and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome for another day. Other candidates up and down the ballot have similar entries, though not nearly as many; Parker is a notable exception to this, as she’s putting her money into media and is relying on an extensive volunteer network for GOTV activities. We knew Locke was doing polls, even if we never get see any of them. Oh, and Ttweak, of course, are the folks that brought us Houston, It’s Worth It. I give Team Locke style points for hiring them in whatever capacity.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Peter Brown 1,214.17 Printed materials Peter Brown 36,675.00 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 43,601.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 251,027.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 888.99 Printed materials Peter Brown 1,742.82 Printed materials Peter Brown 75,120.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 5,800.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 82,225.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,949.43 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 27,438.89 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 500.00 Text messaging service Peter Brown 59,213.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,682.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,125.99 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 42,338.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 2,553.00 Printed materials Peter Brown 5,000.00 Media buy (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 126,485.92 Consulting (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 4,558.60 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 451,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 117,964.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 5,953.75 Printed materials

Behold the Peter Brown media empire. The man has a fortune at his disposal, and by God he used it. The disclosure form listed over $2.4 million in expenses, which is to say nearly five times what Parker spent and a bit less than double what Locke spent. Of that, as you can see, over $1.7 million was spent on media buys, which I presume all means television. I could be wrong – I don’t know what the difference is between Foston and Buying Time, though one possibility is “cable” versus “broadcast”, and another is “radio” versus “TV”. I’m guessing that the $5K and $126K expenditures to Neuman should be reversed, but since all of his direct mail expenditures – all $350K+ of it – were listed as “Consulting”, I could be wrong about that. And in the midst of all this airtime, it’s nice to know they didn’t forget about more modern forms of voter outreach. I’ll bet $500 buys a lot of text messages.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Roy Morales 1,976.25 Radio ads (KSEV) Roy Morales 8,650.32 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 3,000.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 378.88 Printing Roy Morales 2,500.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 1,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 500.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 5,000.00 Mailer balance Roy Morales 1,500.00 Commercial purchase

Roy didn’t have much to spend, and what he did have he mostly spent on mail. Kind of piddly compared to what Brown spent, but then most things are. I’m not actually sure what Locke spent on mail, since all I saw were those “printing” charges, which could be many things. Parker didn’t spend anything on mail, but she’s been featured in several third party mailers I’ve received, including one from the HGLBT Political Caucus, one from Annie’s List, and one from the Houston Turnout Project. With friends like those, you can concentrate on other things. Oh, and let’s not forget the Texas Conservative Review, too. I bet it’ll chafe Roy to realize that Parker will have a bigger ad in Polland’s piece than he will. I’m just now realizing that neither Locke nor Brown had an expense for that, which strikes me as odd. Roy also got a $3000 in-kind donation for video production on his ad, and that $1500 commercial purchase, which I presume landed his ad somewhere, was an addendum to his original report. Anyone want to guess what show Roy’s ad interrupted was? Just a hunch here, but I’m thinking it was a one-off.

I’ve got similar reports in the works for the At Large and district Council races. Hope you found this useful.

Eight days out: What the Controller candidates are spending their money on

You may recall I looked at how the Controller candidates were spending their money after the 30 day reports came out, and I figured I’d do it again with the 8 day reports. Along the way, I found a little surprise. I’ll get to that in a minute. Here we go:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Ronald Green 809.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,301.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,081.42 Door hangers Ronald Green 150.00 Ad (Riverside UMC) Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail

Well, he’s sending mail. That’s something. And I even got one of his mailers yesterday. Progress! Anybody else get some mail from Green?

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ MJ Khan 500.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 6,000.00 Radio ad production and buy MJ Khan 105,048.70 TV media buy MJ Khan 18,300.00 TV ad production MJ Khan 1,100.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) MJ Khan 10,000.00 Ad (HCRP) MJ Khan 214,473.00 TV & radio media buy MJ Khan 1,690.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 2,895.69 Printing of signs MJ Khan 2,500.00 Radio ad buy MJ Khan 2,000.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications)

Pretty decent media buy. Khan’s $300K will get him a fair amount of TV time, including in some places that don’t have very many voters. Note the $5K ad with the Texas Conservative Review, which you’ll see again and again, and the accompanying $10K ad with the Harris County GOP, which most Republican candidates bought at some level as well. Gotta give ’em credit for knowing how to make a buck when the opportunity presents itself.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Pam Holm 10,000.00 Video shoot Pam Holm 10,063.82 Direct mail Pam Holm 3,750.00 GOTV field ops Pam Holm 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMC) Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Pam Holm 1,000.00 GOTV Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio time Pam Holm 612.40 Ad (Houston Community Newspapers) Pam Holm 1,650.81 Yard Signs Pam Holm 1,914.94 Push cards and letterhead Pam Holm 14,641.00 Mailer Pam Holm 1,350.00 Push cards Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (HCRP) Pam Holm 50.00 Ad (Acres Homes Citizen Council) Pam Holm 1,500.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 487.13 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,850.00 Push cards Pam Holm 4,350.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 2,301.40 Signs Pam Holm 22,158.91 Direct Mail

Okay, something here is missing. We know Pam Holm is on the air – Martha asked around on Facebook and received confirmation from a couple of people that they have seen her ad several times, on CNN. Yet I cannot find a line item in her finance report that would correspond to a media buy of that magnitude. She only listed about $180K of spending in her report, which frankly wouldn’t buy that much TV time if that’s all it were being spent on. Stephen Costello’s report for his At Large #1 race showed $160K spent on a TV buy, and that’s the smallest one I’ve seen so far. Heck, just look at how much MJ Khan spent. She’s been on the air long enough that this should be accounted for in this report – it’s not in her 30 days out report – unlike the situation from earlier this month where Gene Locke announced his debut on TV after the reporting deadline for the 30 day reports. So I’m going to ask here: Where is Pam Holm’s spending on TV advertising documented? Maybe I’m missing something, and if so I hope someone will point me to it. But especially with Holm taking shots at Green about his tax lien, I think it’s fair to wonder why Holm has apparently filed an incomplete finance report.

UPDATE: Via Greg, here’s the purchase order for Holm’s ad buy. Martha has more.

Locke v. Brown

So here’s the new Gene Locke ad:

Everybody noticed the pause, right? Hey, if the electorate isn’t paying close attention to the details, you may as well make the most of it where you can.

And here’s the Chron story about Locke taking to the radio to attack Peter Brown:

The 60-second spot, the first paid negative advertising in the campaign, makes a direct appeal for black voters to choose Locke, the only African-American in the race.

“Peter Brown is spending millions of dollars in this mayor’s race because he can’t match Gene’s longtime record of service,” former City Councilman Jew Don Boney, associate director of the Mickey Leland Center for World Hunger at Texas Southern University, says in the ad. “But our community is not for sale.”

You can listen to the ad here (MP3 file). Two things I’ll add to this. One, whether or not you believe that Chron poll – Dr. Murray expresses his skepticism about it – I think it’s safe to say that Locke believes he is either behind Brown, or not ahead of him by enough to feel comfortable about it.

Two, I disagree with what is written here:

The ad underscores Locke’s surprisingly tenuous place among one of the most formidable blocs of voters in the city less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Former Mayor Lee P. Brown is widely credited with winning three elections based on his strength in areas with high African-American populations. Some analysts have cited state Rep. Sylvester Turner’s failure to win a similarly high amount of voters as a key factor in his 2003 loss to Mayor Bill White and Orlando Sanchez.

I don’t know which analysts Olsen and Snyder have talked to, but that’s the first I’ve ever heard it suggested that Sylvester Turner did not get enough of the black vote to win in 2003. Taking a look in the wayback machine, here’s George Strong gaming out how the vote that year might go:

Assumption: 300,000 voters in first election. 25 % are African-American, 15 % are Hispanics and of the remaining 60% Anglos, a third of those are Democrats, Gays, Labor, etc.

African Americans: A Total of 75000 votes. Tuner would get 75% or 56250 votes. The remaining 25% (18750) would be split with White getting 75% of that vote or 14062 votes and Orlando the remainder or 4688 votes

Hispanics: A Total of 45000 votes. Orlando would get 60% or 27000. Of the remaining 18000 votes the White would get 80% or 14400 votes and Turner the rest 3600

Anglos: A total of 180,000 votes. Orlando would get 50% of the Anglo vote or 90000. Of the remaining 90000 votes Bill White would get 70% or 63000 votes and Turner would get 27000.

In this scenario Orlando would have 121,688. White would come in second with 91462 votes and be in a runoff with Orlando. Turner would trail with 86850 votes.

Strong overestimated Sanchez’s strength and underestimated White’s but he sure did nail Sylvester Turner’s number. And after the fact, he printed this analysis from Dr. Murray. It’s a little hard to read, but here’s the crucial bit:

Table 3 shows White got some votes in all racial/ethnic groups in the first round, and had very broad and substantial support in the runoff. His voter coalition was the broadest of any winning mayor since Kathy Whitmire’s in 1981.

Table 3. Estimated Vote Share in Different Voter Precinct Groupings in 2003 General Election Runoff White% Sanchez% Turner% White% Sanchez% Racial/Ethnic Anglos…………………. 46% 48% 6% 48% 52% Blacks……………………18% 1% 81% 96% 4% Hispanics………………..46% 47% 7% 56% 44% Asians………………… ..70% 25% 5% 72% 28%

Murray pegged Turner’s level of support among African-Americans in the November election at 81%. That’s from looking at the actual canvass, not from a pre-game estimate. Turner’s problem wasn’t the black vote, it was the non-black vote – six percent of Anglos, seven percent of Hispanics, five percent of Asians. I have no idea who suggested otherwise, but whoever it was, I’d like to know how exactly he or she arrived at that conclusion.

Anyway. Since then, the Brown campaign has responded with some comments from various African-American leaders, and Locke has responded as well – one of his supporters who wanted to clarify what he said in the Chron story, actually. The releases are beneath the fold. I’m thinking they’re not exactly unhappy about this turn of events at Annise Parker headquarters. Miya and Martha have an interesting takes on this as well.

UPDATE: It’s probably not a coincidence that Parker picked this moment to announce the endorsement of State Rep. Garnet Coleman. I’ve put her press release beneath the fold as well.

UPDATE: Brown responds with a radio ad featuring the Rev. James Dixon. It’s very effective, so give it a listen.

UPDATE: The press release war continues. Whoever said that Friday afternoon was a time for dumping news you hope will go unnoticed? Brown is calling a press release Sunday with numerous supporters in Acres Homes. Locke announces his own list of 100 clergymen. As Nancy Sims remarks, now things have gotten interesting. Must have been that Houston Press cover that did it.


Bringing rock music back to Houston

Mike McGuff notes the reappearance of an old Rock 101 KLOL billboard, and muses about having a real rock station in Houston again.

Why did Clear Channel kill Rock 101? I’ve been told it was because you had 93.7 The Arrow KKRW which was classic rock on one side and on the other was alternative 94.5 The Buzz KTBZ. Rock 101 was stuck in the middle and kind of played music from both formats. The company realized that it had too many stations playing the same music. Which one was the one to die? The one that played what the other two did. Never mind that Rock 101 was a 30 year heritage station with a lot of history and a sense of community. Sure the station sucked in later years, but listeners were hopeful and still loyal. I was told the station was still making money too.

I have nothing against Mega 101. But it should have been Mega 93.7 in my opinion. Does anyone really care about 93.7 The Arrow? It gets listened to because it is one of the few places to play classic rock, but it has no real emotional connection with listeners like Rock 101 did. I suspect the 101.1 target looked viable for a Mega format because it was close on the dial to 102.9 FM.

Clear Channel does not own KLOL anymore. CBS now does. CBS should take a dead station like Mix 96.5 (it also recently acquired) and change that to Mega 96.5. Then bring back Rock 101. Just don’t make it suck this time like Rock 103.7 KIOL please. The new Rock 101 should have a fresh coat of paint and updated image/music.

I agree that in its heyday, KLOL hit a sweet spot between “flavor of the week” and “same stale old ‘classics’ over and over again” that is sorely missing among commercial radio stations. I’d argue that 89.7 KACC fills that niche pretty nicely, and goes a step farther in that it includes local music, something we haven’t really had on the dial since Donna McKenzie’s “Made in Texas” show on the old 107.5 KZFX, but KACC suffers from a frustratingly weak signal, which makes listening to it a hit-or-miss experience. I’d love for there to be another Houston-based station, one you could listen to anywhere in town, that catered to real rock music fans. If there were to be such a thing, here are the three things I would beg of it, so that it would have a chance of not ending in bitter disappointment, as so many other “new” stations (like Jack and The Point, to name two prominent ones) have done.

1. Don’t insult our intelligence

Of my three wish list items, this one is non-negotiable. Please, for the love of Wolfman Jack, don’t be another focus-group-driven no-imagination limited-playlist atrocity. Hell, don’t have a playlist at all. Hire DJs that know their stuff, and set them free to spin what they want. When you play older music, don’t just give us the same moldy “classics” we’ve all heard a million times since the “classic rock” format was created 20 years ago. Play deep cuts. Play new music by classic artists – believe it or not, some of these acts have made albums since Ronald Reagan was President, but you’ll never hear it on any station in this town. Play artists that aren’t as well known, like the artists that inspired the guys we’re all familiar with. Play stuff from different eras, and different genres that influenced rock music, like blues music. Play local music, and promote live music events that feature local artists. Treat us like intelligent consumers that are fully aware we can go other places on the dial to hear “Stairway to Heaven” one more time.

2. Use social media to create a community

First, accept the fact that the vast majority of radio station websites are a wasteland of stupid games, popups, ads, annoying Flash intrusions, and brain-dead content, and vow not to be like that. Make your website a useful resource. List and maintain an archive of every song you play, with a brief clip so that when someone hears a tune they don’t recognize and they don’t hear it identified on the air, they can figure out who and what it is. Hell, include links to Amazon, iTunes, artist sites, and other places where we can buy a copy of each song, if we’re so moved. You could probably make some money off of that. Let local bands submit their tunes to you, as KACC does, and partner with them to provide some free downloads. Let (or make) the DJs, who are what gives a station its personality, have their own pages on the website that they regularly update, so they can tell us more about the bands and songs they love. Take requests via Twitter and/or Facebook. If you create specialty shows like Donna McKenzie’s “Made in Texas” (and you should), especially ones that air at odd hours, create podcasts of them that can be freely downloaded. Create Flickr and YouTube groups for pictures and videos taken at events hosted by the station, or even just for fans who want to share concert experiences. Needless to say, there’s a million things you can do here.

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment

I hope I’ve made it clear that the last thing we need is another cookie cutter station. Surely by now it must be obvious that the dull, dumbed-down homogenization of commercial radio is the reason for its decline in a media environment that allows so many choices for so many tastes. I also hope it’s clear that in this fragmented, diverse media environement, there is always a demand, and an audience, for quality. It may seem scary to experiment, and safer to do the same old same old, but consider how much successful TV programming is unconventional, “Mad Men” being the latest example. The beauty of all this is that with flexible playlist-free programming, and with a good social media presence, experimenting should be easy because you can get and respond to feedback quickly. That song list I said you should be publishing? Let people rate what they’re hearing and tell you if they want more of it or less of it. Act accordingly and you’ll never get too far off track. Doing stuff like this will help you establish a strong brand, with a loyal following, and that’s a mighty valuable thing.

What’s strange about all this is that I don’t see anything I’m suggesting here as being radical, or even all that unusual, and yet I feel like there’s no chance that a media behemoth like CBS or Clear Channel would ever think of doing these things. I suppose I could be overestimating the audience size for a non-brain dead radio station. Maybe the type of person that I think would tune in to this has given up on radio for good. But I don’t think it’s that hopeless, and I do think it’s worth the effort. Sadly, I don’t ever expect to see it happen.

“Quality rock”

In case you’ve ever wondered what “classic rock” will be called when the format is updated to include stuff recorded after Ronald Reagan left office, here’s your answer: Quality rock.

KDBN/93.3 FM, which had aired the classic-rock “Bone” format for more than seven years, underwent a format change Monday to “93.3 FM Quality Rock.” The new format sounds like a mash-up of adult-album alternative and classic-alternative formats, with familiar tracks by acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Train, Counting Crows and Eric Clapton, and occasional sprinklings of less-familiar artists such as Gomez and nonwarhorse songs by the likes of Everclear, Barenaked Ladies and Beck.

The format flip followed a weekend stunt during which 93.3 played nothing but music by the Dave Matthews Band from Friday evening till 5 a.m. Monday. Dallas-Fort Worth radio fans with medium-range memories might recall that before “The Bone” launched in January 2002, the station played similar material first as “The Zone” and then as “Merge Radio.”

But Jeff Catlin, the operations manager for KDBN and other Cumulus Media Dallas-Fort Worth stations, says there is a key difference between “Quality Radio” and the earlier 93.3 formats.

“The two main differences between FM 93.3 and any other station on the frequency in the past (Zone, Merge especially) is that we will be playing familiar songs and artists,” Catlin said via e-mail. “All the way from classic hits and classic alternative, through the ’80s and ’90s up through currents from the likes of U2, Coldplay and Radiohead.” The new format even dug into the ’70s, with Van Morrison’s 1970 hit Domino.

Not exactly a radical change, and I’m sure after a little shaking out the playlist will shrink down to the usual 500 songs or so. As I’ve noted before, that may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. Go ahead and create a 500 song playlist on your iPod, then listen to only that on shuffle and see how long it takes you to get tired of it. Look at it this way: At 45 minutes of music per hour for a commercial radio station, and 4 minutes per song, it would take two days to go through their entire catalog.

Anyway. I imagine the main difference will likely be the retirement of some 70s-era warhorses, to be replaced by a selection of approved songs and artists from the 90s. In commercial radio, this counts as innovation. Link via Mike McGuff, who notes that this may be coming our way to the Cumulus-owned 103.7, formerly known as Jack FM.