The battle was joined in earnest in Austin in July 2009, when three of the longtime deejays — who built the station into what it is and who carried management through decades of fundraisers — were summarily shunted off to reduced roles, with attendant loss of benefits and a more structured “playlist.” You can trace the course of the struggle on the facebook page or the website maintained by Gary Etie (links on right), or if you want a comprehensive look, you can read the website stories detailing the decade-long implementation of the business plan by station management (“How Much Is Enough?” here) or the rationale employed by station management and the actual statistics available on public radio (“Fuzzy Math: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics,” here). The website also contains a long list of the musicians and businesses who supported these deejays and the Save KUT Austin movement, as well as the comments of the public.

At one point in September, a delegation of citizens — including two former mayors, business supporters, and prominent musicians Roscoe Beck and Barbara Kooyman — met with the dean of the UT communications school, the station manager, and other members of the station “Advisory Board” (“hand-picked” by the manager) to air complaints (chronicled here). To date, little has come of this, other than one lone meeting of a “Musicians’ Circle” chosen by station management.


4 Responses

  1. Good to hear from Ms Welch again, and also good to hear that people have not forgotten the dis-service that was done to these talented individuals. Not to mention the long term supporters of the station, the supporters that were there for years & years and who helped to build it to the respected station that it was. And the use of past tense is very deliberate there, KUT is just a shadow of its former self. As Ms welch stated, it is the corporate money that drives the station now, not the small time contributors such as myself. Once you turn your back on the public you were meant to serve who’s going to matter more, Rev Jim or Lexus of Austin? It’s been wonderful hearing Larry Monroe back on the air but I am also unable to pick him up thru my stereo or in my car. Listening streaming is better than nothing but it’s not what I pledged all those years for. So thank you for the reminder of what was lost ,and what we can still fight to keep.

  2. In every long-term relationship, there are heartbreaks, disappointments, misunderstandings. Stewart Vanderwilt and Hawk Mendenhall — hereinafter referred to as Bad Management (BM) — broke my heart when they canned Paul Ray and Larry Monroe from their evenings and overnight slots in favor of the colorless, uninteresting, occasionally obnoxious Matt Reilly and some canned crap from California (“Undercurrents”). Paul and Larry, these treasuries of musical knowledge and local lore, were treated shabbily.

    BM made me wary by cutting, cutting, cutting John Aielli’s hours. They broke my heart when they cut “Aielli Unleashed” altogether. (No, I didn’t download every one — I just listened to them online. Did they track that?)

    They broke my heart when they turned my station from “listener-supported” to “community-supported” — like no one would notice that the emphasis was now on corporate sponsorship instead of individual members. I can now withhold my membership monies forever and it will make no difference at all.

    They broke my heart when they turned Folkways into just another AAA set with a nice guy who demonstrates very little knowledge about folk music, Kevin Connor.

    They broke my heart when they fired Griff Luneberg from managing the Cactus Cafe, cutting the heart out of the place that has been an incubator of talent for decades.

    No doubt they will break my heart again and again.

    But the idea of KUT is stronger than any BM, stronger than any individual wearing a suit. The people who’ve made KUT KUT for decades: John Aielli, Paul Ray, Jay Trachtenberg, even Bob Branson — remain its wonderful beating heart, despite the strictures and cages placed around them by BM. Some of the recent additions — Ed Miller, Tom Pittman (however briefly, bless him) — retain the individual voice that made KUT sweet to my ears.

    (Jody Denberg must think he’s died and gone to heaven, with the degree of freedom he has now, compared with KGSR — or not — I dunno.)

    Despite all this, despite all this, what station do I turn on at my house at 5:45 AM and turn off at bedtime? What station is the first preset in every family vehicle? You guessed it … KUT.

    It could be that this is an indicator of the sad state of radio in Austin these days. I love KMFA but I need me some news and also something new, however much I love the classics. Maybe KUT is all there is. I wish I could receive KDRP, Larry Monroe’s new home, but so far, no good (except online, thank heavens).

    I’ve been listening since I came to UT in 1975, and I will keep listening for the foreseeable future. I have been listening longer than the current management at KUT has been managing, and I will listen long after they’re gone. They can’t drive me away — they just drive me crazy.

    In my dreams I have many millions of dollars, and I sit down with BM, and I tell them how the cow ate the cabbage. I read them the riot act. I tell them I will give them all my money IF they stop their idiotic and unnecessary control and greed and just let the music play — oh, and bring back Larry Monroe, Paul Ray, and Griff Luneberg — if they’ll come. Give John Aielli as many hours as he wants. (Though he’d be welcome to stay on the air until he drops in the studio, he may wish to retire sometime, and that will be a sad sad day).

    Just try not to break my heart anymore than you have to, KUT. Even the longest of long-term relationships should not be taken for granted.


    Julia Kinsey Welch
    Lago Vista TX

  3. John, while I agree with you in spirit I’m sure that KUT’s legal team would tell you that they’re not airing commercials. They’re airing “enhanced underwriting spots,” which are within FCC guidelines as long as certain criteria are met. And since UT Systems has whole buildings full of lawyers at their service you can bet that each of those spots have been vetted and cleared. I would say the best time to write to the FCC would be when their license comes up for renewal. There may be some chance of showing that they violated their charter with all these changes. Now I am hearing the strains of the “Blue Monday” theme coming out of my speakers again. I am outta here ! ! !

  4. Because the “non-profit, educational” broadcasting license for KUT is held by the University of Texas Regents (who do not fund the station), the most productive protest is to file a complaint with the FCC online or by mail (very easy). KUT violates the rules by airing commercials. If enough listeners file complaints, the FCC (new administration) will investigate and potentially suspend the license until commercials end. This is the most direct and effective way to change KUT (actually UT Regents).

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