Division of Multimedia Properties

Frequently asked questions about stations’ restructuring, format changes

The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications recently restructured its broadcast stations into the Division of Multimedia Properties. In the process, we significantly boosted news and public affairs programming on our public radio station, WUFT/WJUF-FM, and moved an expanded offering of classical music to our HD2 channel. We also stream our news/talk and classical/arts programming online, making both available worldwide.

What are the primary reasons the stations made these changes?

  1. To align more closely with the College’s curriculum and educational mission and create a greater number of training opportunities for UF students.
  2. To become economically viable in a rapidly changing and extremely competitive media environment.
  3. To provide high-quality, vital national and local news and public affairs programming for North-Central Florida residents.
  4. To offer a full-time classical/arts channel that airs mostly classical music and local live and taped productions.

Why did WUFT-FM change its format?

WUFT-FM and its sister station, WJUF-FM, changed the format on the analog/HD1 channel to mostly news and public affairs programming and expanded classical music to 24/7 on the HD2 channel for a variety of reasons. They include:

  1. To align the station more closely with the educational mission of the College of Journalism and Communications.

    By increasing news and public affairs programming on HD1, WUFT-FM provides substantially more professional and educational opportunities for a larger number of students at one of the world’s elite journalism and communications programs.

    The College’s constitution states, “The media units, which include but are not limited to television and radio stations, are a major part of the teaching mission of our College.”

    The stronger emphasis on news and public affairs programming on HD1 and live productions on HD2, as well as the increase in revenues, give WUFT-FM more opportunities to participate in the College’s teaching and research mission. The station has expanded student news opportunities during mid-day and on nights and weekends.

    The new format allows journalism and communications professors and graduate students to conduct more research about the dissemination and consumption of news and information in the digital era.

    Also, WUFT-FM is enhancing its online offerings, preparing to play a significant role in the College’s emerging Center for Media Innovation + Research and 21st Century News Laboratory.

    We’re creating a Division of Multimedia Properties Faculty Advisory Board to provide counsel as we further integrate WUFT-FM and our other media properties into the College curriculum and provide more educational opportunities for students.
  2. To offer a more broadly based programming service to the community.

    We’ve added national and local news and public affairs programs – including “On Point,” “Talk of the Nation,” “The Diane Rehm Show,” “Marketplace” and the student-produced “Front Page on the Air” – and we’re running more segments of “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” These and many of our other programs provide invaluable information to North-Central Florida residents.

    Planned expansion of mid-day, evening and weekend local news programming will provide listeners more in-depth information about their communities.

    The need for accurate, timely, balanced, fair, interesting and relevant local and national information is greater than ever. We’re in a unique position to provide this invaluable service to our listeners. We view it as a call of duty in a democratic society.

    At the same time, HD2 allows WUFT-FM to program classical music 24 hours every day. Audience preferences may lead to inclusion of opera and jazz programming, as well. WUFT-FM is one of only a few media properties in the country offering live classical music on HD2.
  3. To expand classical music and local live musical production opportunities.

    By moving classical music to its HD2 channel, WUFT-FM allowed for 24/7 musical programming. We also plan to carry live and taped broadcasts of high school, UF College of Fine Arts and other local productions.
  4. To increase WUFT-FM memberships.

    Despite the diligent work of a dedicated staff, the station had only about 3,200 members in 2008, down from more than 3,650 the previous year. Stations of similar revenue ranking that broadcast news/talk on their primary channel average more than 8,000 members. We believe we’ll achieve the same level of membership and higher.

    Chart showing WUFT-FM membership vs. peer stations.
  5. To increase membership revenues.

    In 2008, WUFT-FM’s membership revenues were about $390,000, down from nearly $450,000 the previous year. Peer stations that broadcast news/talk on HD1 average more than $785,000.
  6. To upgrade corporate sponsorship.

    In 2007, WUFT generated about $250,000 in underwriting – less than half of the average produced by peers that broadcast news/talk (more than $550,000).

    Chart showing WUFT-FM donor and underwriting revenues vs. peer stations.

Does the WUFT-FM format change follow a national trend among public radio stations?

Yes. Although we made the changes for other reasons, as well, we know that, for the past decade, public radio stations around the country have been switching to mostly news and public affairs programming on their primary channels. In fact, by 2000, the number of public radio stations broadcasting news and public affairs programs exceeded those with a mixed news-music format.

The news-talk radio format has become most preferred among listeners of all radio formats around the country, outranking country for the first time, according to the latest Arbitron report. Recently, stations in Nashville, Winston-Salem, Fort Myers, Birmingham, Hartford, and Vermont have made the change.

Most stations make the switch because it boosts listenership, membership and revenues. Typically, stations see an increase in the number of donors and in contribution and underwriting revenues.

WUFT-FM made the change also to more fully align with the educational mission of the College of Journalism and Communications.

Did the College leadership conduct research before deciding to restructure its stations and change WUFT-FM’s format?

Yes, the College conducted months of research. We thoroughly analyzed audience data. We brought in Telecommunication Advisory Council members with successful experience in media reorganization to provide invaluable guidance. And we sought advice from peer stations that switched from mostly classical music on their primary channels to news and public affairs programming.

We also consulted with management professionals in public and commercial broadcasting, current and previous department chairs, and several members of the radio community advisory board. Also, one of our advanced telecommunication classes examined relevant programming and audience data and information.

We learned that, although overall radio listenership in the Gainesville/Ocala market increased after 9 a.m. and during mid-day, WUFT-FM audience decreased as much as 70 percent when the station switched from news and public affairs to music. Other stations in the market retained or increased audience numbers during that time slot.

What did the peer stations recommend?

Stations that previously switched to news and public affairs programming on their main channels uniformly gave WUFT-FM the following indications:

  1. The most successful public stations are those that feature news and public affairs and do not offer dual programming of music and news.
  2. Broadcasting classical music through a stand-alone HD2 channel allows enhancement of that service because of the 24/7 cycle. Although more limited in its coverage area, the HD signal delivers superior sound quality, according to published reports.
  3. In the several years after the switch, listenership reaches the highest level ever. Membership is also the highest. And revenue is higher – from membership and underwriting.

What have WUFT listeners been saying about the change?

Some listeners have voiced concern about WUFT-FM switching classical music to the HD2 channel. Recent developments suggest an increase in power and coverage area soon. To help with the transition, the College has sent personnel to listeners’ homes to help install HD2 radios.

Other listeners have praised the increase in news and public affairs programming on HD1. Their comments have included:

Listeners have described the new programs – which include “This American Life,” “Marketplace” and the local, award-winning “Front Page on the Air” – as “intelligent news” and “stimulating conversation.”

What is an HD2 signal?

It’s a digital channel. WUFT-FM broadcasts classical/arts programming on its HD2 channel and old-time radio programs on HD3. Listeners can tune into these channels online or through a digital receiver.

Local retailers such as Best Buy and Radio Shack offer digital receivers for as little as $50. For detailed information on HD radio, please visit www.hdradio.com.

Why are the commercial stations important to the educational mission of the College?

Most of our alumni work in commercial media properties or advertising and public relations agencies. WRUF-AM/FM provides commercial opportunities for students in advertising, journalism and public relations, in addition to telecommunication.

WRUF-AM/FM’s news department is comprised almost exclusively of College of Journalism and Communications students and serves as a key learning laboratory. A critical component of our students’ undergraduate experience is hands-on professional education, allowing real-world practice in the principles of journalism, broadcasting, online communications, advertising and public relations.

WRUF-AM/FM allows all of these opportunities, plus experiences in marketing, sales and research, which are so vital in today’s volatile and competitive media environment. This gives UF students a competitive edge in the job market.

The stations also will play a crucial role in our new Center for Media Innovation + Research and planned Institute for Strategic Media Management.

WRUF-AM is the fifth oldest radio station in Florida, signing on the air in 1928. WRUF-FM is one of the oldest FM stations in the country, signing on the air in 1948.

What are WRUF’s funding sources?

WRUF-AM/FM is self supporting, deriving essentially all of its funding from commercial advertising revenues. The commercial stations receive no state, university or federal funding.

WRUF-AM/FM paid the allocated construction costs associated with its portion of Weimer Hall. It pays its utility bills for its studio and transmitter locations. Although its staff members are state employees, WRUF-AM/FM pays its payroll costs and personnel benefits. Also, based on the past year’s expenses and the current auxiliary fee, the stations will pay UF about $115,000 in allocated overhead fees for fiscal year 2009-10.

WRUF-AM/FM generated about $1.65 million in revenues this past fiscal year. The stations competed for advertising revenue in an extremely competitive and rapidly changing media environment. The Gainesville/Ocala radio market includes more than 30 stations.

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