Minnesota Public Radio, which operates 30 stations in that state, has shaken up the public radio scene in Los Angeles since taking over KPCC-FM 89.3 last year.
Significant moves made at the Pasadena station have been followed by a number of corresponding changes at competing stations, including KCRW-FM 89.9 in Santa Monica, which increased its news and talk programming in the past year. That move followed KPCC's decision to double its staff of reporters, producers and on-air hosts to 14.
Vice President of Programming Craig Curtis said MPR's introduction to the local airwaves has been beneficial across the public radio spectrum.
"Our presence in the market has allowed other stations to focus on what they do best," Curtis said. "KUSC, for example, has made some changes to its format to focus more on classical music. This allows all stations to do well, whether its increasing fundraising or expanding their listener base."
But Bob Goldfarb, director of broadcasting and new media at KUSC-FM 91.5, said the recent changes to his station's classical music format were not prompted by KPCC. Instead, the changes were made to advance the station's mission of making classical music and arts a more important part of people's lives, he said.
"We need to be a reliable source of classical music whenever listeners tune in," Goldfarb said.
In the past month, KUSC has taken several longtime programs off the air, including "A Prairie Home Companion," which is produced by MPR. Other programs dropped include the Celtic music show "The Thistle and Shamrock," "Hearts of Space," and "My Word and My Music."
Meanwhile, at KCRW, Ruth Seymour, the station's general manager, said "KPCC is doing local news the exact way MPR does it. We don't interrupt NPR programming and replace it with news. We do local news in another way."
Approach to local news
Seymour explained that the Santa Monica College-based station covers local news with talk programs such as "Which Way L.A.?," anchored by Warren Olney. "Our commentators also cover local arts and culture and our music programmers cover the local club and concert scene," she said.
The recent addition of "To the Point," a national talk show produced by KCRW and Public Radio International and hosted by Olney, was not a response to KPCC, according to Seymour, but rather the result of the station being able to raise enough money to hire the necessary support staff.
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