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Who Is That Guy?

Some folks involved in the various protest groups incensed at the co-option of their “public” radio stations sought immediate gratification from their actions. They reasoned that one march down to the studio with torches and pitchforks would elicit immediate changes from station management. Surely the bean counters would be reasonable in the face of organized opposition. Think again.

In Austin, it went far beyond that, with a public “town hall” meeting, numerous investigative pieces in the media, a “Twang Dang Doodle” event with an amazing lineup of musicians, and a committee comprised of local luminaries including two former mayors meeting with university and station poobahs — not to mention a website and Facebook page sporting the names of a host of Austin legends (including, for instance, a letter of support from ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons). All that proved insufficient to move the bean counters from their agenda. Many of those seeking that immediate gratification became disheartened and faded into the woodwork. (Indeed, after a successful station fundraiser, the head of the UT school of communications reportedly said smugly of the protesters, “They’re toast.”)

But given the entrenchment of the business types in charge — and their hubris in believing that they knew the truth and the whole truth so help them Arbitron — that was a shortsighted response to station stonewalling. This was not a war to be won with one battle. And the war drags on. There’s plenty to be done (see “What Can I Do?” on the left).

One veteran protester likens his efforts to the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” when the outlaws had worn out their welcome in the states and decided to hightail it to South America, pursued by the lawman in the white hat and his posse. They’d ride all day and all night, trying to shake the posse, then pull up at the top of a rise and look back. And over and again, there in the distance was the guy in the white hat, and Paul Newman would say, “Who is that guy?!”

He was in it for the long haul — just like a veteran protester in this movement. He or she realizes that teaching a bean counter culture is like turning a massive ocean liner. It doesn’t make sharp turns. It has to be gradually moved off course. And perhaps there are signs of a change in course.

In Austin, the last fundraiser had to be extended to meet its goal — an unheard-of event — despite a plethora of “anonymous” matching pledges (the largesse, no doubt, of the so-called “Leadership Circle” of big donors and a hand-picked board). And now, more evidence. The Austin Chronicle, the hip weekly, carried a half-page ad (civic>media>KUT) that screamed “Help Create a New KUT,” with the followup: “Hey, Austin, we’re listening too. KUT.org is reinventing itself to become a more innovative resource for news and music. But we can’t create a site for you if we don’t know what you think.” And the website carries a survey to get your opinions on a number of questions. As if the troika running the show ever cared for what listeners thought when they sliced and diced the freeform DJs who’d made KUT a force to begin with.

See, now they’re listening . . . they want you to believe. Not like in Charlottesville, VA (see previous post), where university cheeses have immediately gone into listen mode in the face of protest. In Boston, the latest Arbitron numbers, worshiped by the money changers, show ‘GBH mired in 23rd place in the market. At KUT, they still haven’t deigned to disclose finances, show what they’re doing with the taxpayer- and donor-supplied funds they received. So now we should believe them that they want to make nice?

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2 Responses

  1. One version had it that Paul found out about his demotion the day he left for vacation. (“Oh, by the way, when you get back, you’re part time.”) Either way, VanderHawk have demonstrated a total lack of savoir faire — or even a modicum of decency.

  2. Station managers are throwing their listeners breadcrumbs while looting the bakery…..Another ploy made by KUT managers lately was to let listeners “vote” on whether to keep a syndicated cooking show in the Sunday morning lineup ( forks up or forks down ! ). But when the massive shake up was being planned last summer they intentionally kept everyone in the dark, even the DJ’s whose shows were being cut. National award-winning DJ Larry Monroe was only told about his long running show being cut about 2 hours before he was supposed to go on the air with it ! And jazz DJ Paul Ray was actually on vacation when it was announced. For months afterward managers hid behind form letters and vague press releases about “belt tightening” & “tough decisions.” But, as it was so well put above, the chickens are indeed coming to roost. The continually tanking numbers and disappointing fund raisers have got the suits rattled. We need to keep the pressure on. So keep writing letters, send emails and spread the word about this site and of local protest groups. Eventually good things happen for those who persevere.

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