Mission Control: Listeners Respond to Program Cuts

Jul 8, 2015

Last week I alluded to the responses WUIS has received since announcing program cuts and promised to share the drift of their content.  Some of the following comments stand on their own, for other thoughts, I provide an explanation.

First and foremost, thanks for letting us know you understand.  Budgets are likely to be cut and we want to make sure the programs you value the most continue to be broadcast here.

I hate to see Science Friday and To the Best of Our Knowledge go, they are great programs and personal favorites. I do understand the situation , I just don't like to see cuts. Better programming than people though.

- Al Pieper

Thanks for allowing us to give input via the survey. I was disappointed to see that Science Friday landed on the chopping block. This is a fascinating program, which makes science and technology easy to understand. I am sure these were very difficult decisions and I am sorry that you have to face them. I sincerely hope that WUIS' budget woes will not be as bad as predicted and you will be able to bring Science Friday back.
- Sarah Beuning

I will miss Science Friday but understand the difficult circumstances WUIS has been placed in.  It is sad that science is often the funding victim in political/financial situations of this sort.  Need I repeat the mantra of the "Dumbing down of America?"  Keep up the good work where you can and know that the Statehouse reporting is very much appreciated as are the large majority of the station's other programs.
- James Grigsby

I understand why the changes had to be made and how difficult those decisions have been.  It is very disappointing, though.  I just retired from public school teaching and was looking forward to listening to some of my favorite programs as I work on my small farm and try to develop some of my writing more fully; The Takeaway, Science Friday, and To the Best of Our Knowledge. 

If funding does improve in the future, I encourage you to look into reinstating these programs into the lineup.  They are stellar! 
Thank you so much for being there, for inviting listener opinions, and for using our donations responsibly.
- Roy Roberts

RadioLab and Ted focus on science frequently and Morning Edition, Illinois Edition, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered often include science reports and interviews.

So sad to lose Sci Fri and TTBOOK on WUIS.  I believe there are podcasts for both. How about letting listeners know about that alternative. Might soften the blow for fans.

- Beth Langen

Thanks, for the suggestion, Beth.  Continue listening to these programs' podcasts by clicking here and scrolling to the end.

I am sure you will get a lot of emails about your new schedule. So I’ll make this short: To the Best Of Our Knowledge is one of the finest discussion/talk shows on radio. To cut it out completely after all these years seems extreme. Is there any way to air an hour of it on Sundays instead of two hours? I know I can get the podcast but it’s been a Sunday show I have looked forward to for years.

- Ronee Kennedy

We value the programs that were cut.   Because PRI's fee is significant, the entire affiliation was ended to save the most money while cutting the fewest programs.  To carry even one of these programs would require paying the additional affiliation fee.  For example, one $1,000 program would require the $17,000 affiliation fee to be paid.

Then there were other suggested cuts:

I'm one of those people who think the Statehouse coverage is redundant and unnecessary. Rarely is there anything new one can't get from other sources: SJR and Tribune. Even Illinois Times. Surely we've exhausted that beat as a financial investment. Staffing alone would be equal to your shortfall, no?
- John Dale Kennedy

Statehouse coverage is core to WUIS' DNA since going on the air in 1975.  Holding our government accountable through reporting and the analysis of State Week is highly valued by most of the audience.  Government is one of the biggest businesses in our broadcast area employing a large amount of listeners.  Local and state coverage is an important part of the mix with NPR's national and international reporting and public radio programs that listeners indicate make WUIS compelling.  Localism is expensive but important to inform Illinois and the nation regarding what is happening here.

I am surprised that the outdated show, Car Talk, is not on this list. Even though folks find it funny, the advice is outdated as the cars discussed are no longer relevant technology.
- Sharron Lafollette

Many of us are saddened to listen to Car Talk when the brother has been dead for so long... We just cannot listen to a dead man's laugh. Please let us know why those reruns continue.
- Maggie Cullen

The Best of Car Talk is still  highly valued and one of the most listened to programs on the schedule but is fatiguing some listeners.  Green Subaru and CEFCU also sponsor it so cutting Car Talk wouldn't have saved money.

I'll seriously miss Science Friday. I wish you could have instead gotten rid of that horrid snot on Saturday afternoons on the food bore program. Other than that I'm fine.
- Bob Sablotny

I guess Bob won't be sitting at Lynne Rossetto Kasper's splendid table anytime soon.  He's not alone as Splendid Table is an acquired taste.  The survey results indicated it is a tune-out for 15% of listeners.  Still 27% value the program.

 So sorry you didn't remove ON POINT. The moderator is inevitably biased, cutting off even expert callers if they don't agree with him; annoying at best. …ceased listening to him shortly after programs start, I think, because he was so awful. Also have gotten totally tired of the of FRESH AIR (hate the punny name for starters as fresh air is disappearing from our ATMOSPHERE, for god sake) becoming a bloviating radio program. Lastly Krista Tippett's pontificating is also getting on my nerves so that I don't dare tune in until after 10 am on Sundays. I know these last 2 are especially sacred cows of PRI, but I believe they've overstayed their welcome. But then again, when I think of the new shows, such as: ASK ME ANOTHER perhaps retaining the old shows is the better option.Very glad you've kept: HEARTS OF SPACE, LINCOLN LIBRARY CONCERT, RADIOLAB, THIS AMERICAN LIFE and others.
- Chris Gilbert

Tom Ashbrook hails from central Illinois and the program does have higher tune-out at 15% but is also valued by 47% of the survey respondents. 

On Being at 5 a.m. on Sunday...really??? What were you thinking?
- Deb Petty

We hope to find a better time for On Being in the future.  It wasn't attracting enough listeners Sunday mornings at 9 AM and Weekend Edition has a higher value factor.  In the past, many listeners said they couldn't listen to On Being at 9 as they are on their way to church.  A replay has been added Mondays at 10 PM. 

Maybe this is a chance to sneak in some classical music into the empty spaces... LOL or not.
- Victoria Nichols-Johnson

This brings up a surprising result of the listener survey.  Almost all the music programs placed at the bottom of the affinity index (see table).  The variety of music genres make it so each individually appeals to fewer people.  Also, access is changing.  Music is now available on demand and more people are listening to it through the Internet.  WUIS values its music heritage and feels public radio continues to have a role in discovery and appreciation.  Both WUIS Classic and WUIS Xponential along with the weekend music programs preserve that aspect of service.  Still, spoken word programs tend to be valued at a higher level.  How are you using music?

What percentage of my donation to WUIS goes to fund Illinois Issues?
- Craig Kniffin

Zero.  Illinois Issues is funded through its existing, separate budget.  Cost cutting is also being examined for that budget.

Sorry to hear you are faced with cutting the schedule. I always listen when I'm in central Illinois and often online. I teach a broadcast class at Kankakee Community College and work with WKCC Radio. The school just announced that they are closing down the station at the end of the year.
- Jim Grimes

It's disconcerting for us to see a public radio station close down.  WKCC's example is not similar to what most stations in Illinois face.  It has been trying to be a traditional public radio station for a few years and never has been able to afford to air Morning Edition or All Things Considered.  WUIS is healthy and these changes are being made so we continue to thrive.  Almost all of WKCC's budget came from Kankakee Community College while WUIS is strongly supported by a mix that includes listeners and the business community.  WUIS is also strongly supported by the University of Illinois Springfield even as it's state funding has decreased over the years.

… I congratulate you on shifting the culture of WUIS more toward creation of local and regional content while maintaining connections to a national and global context.
…Kudos to you and the other hard-working staff on achieving this during some of the most challenging economic times. I hope that all those responsible feel as proud as they deserve -- even if it's shielded by Midwestern reserve.
- John K

John is very kind.  As have been all of our listeners.  Thanks for your understanding and continued support.  You built WUIS over the years and we are proud to steward it forward.

Below is the Affinity Net Index for programs from the listener survey completed in June.  Nearly 600 responses make this statistically reliable.  The sample was not random but of listeners who responded to our call for input.  For this index, a response was either:

  • I listen to frequently or greatly value (positive).
  • I dislike or tune-out (negative).
  • No answer (neutral).

The positives and negatives are added together creating then divided by the total number of respondents creating a net percentage of affinity.  These track pretty closely with ratings for the programs and with anecdotal comments we receive.

Since the above chart is hard to read on some computers, here is the detail:

Mission Control is my blog sharing my experiences managing public media and exploring nonprofit organizations.  A space aficionado since childhood, I couldn't resist the title's double meaning in exploring the effects management and a focused mission have toward nonprofit success.  If you'd like to share your media or nonprofit story, click here to contact me.