The University Record, February 28, 1994

Michigan Radio to strengthen ties to U, will broadcast football

By Mary Jo Frank

Michigan football returns to WUOM this fall.

Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations, reported to the Regents at their February meeting that as part of Michigan Radio’s efforts to strengthen its connections to the University community, WUOM will cover U-M football and focus more attention on academics and student affairs. Detroit radio station WJR will continue to broadcast U-M football.

Michigan Radio, which includes WUOM in Ann Arbor, WVGR in Grand Rapids and WFUM in Flint, offers a mix of local and network programming, including classical music, news and information and some jazz, noted Frank C. Williams Jr., director of strategic planning for university relations and a member of the three-person committee that recently reviewed Michigan Radio’s operations. Also on the committee were Joel H. Seguine, Michigan Radio manager, and James H. Beck, director of the Office of Marketing Communications.

The review was prompted by recurring budget deficits over the last five years, concern about slow growth in listener contributions over the last five years, and increasing competition from commercial and public radio for market share.

The group reported that WUOM and WVGR reach more than 120,000 listeners each week, with the greatest share of listeners tuning in during morning and evening drive times and midday.

Williams said the committee found that Michigan Radio has undergone significant changes during the past 14 years, including a decline in General Fund support, downsizing of professional staff and loss of paid faculty commentators, greater reliance on network and syndicated programs, dramatic changes in broadcasting systems and technology, and increased competition for donated dollars.

Williams noted that Michigan Radio’s financial base also has changed significantly over time. About 30 percent of its revenues come from contributions, about 30 percent from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and 30 percent from the U-M.

The station has run budget deficits due to increases in production and programming costs. Administrative and engineering expenses have remained relatively stable in recent years.

Interviews with Michigan Radio staff showed that Michigan Radio’s ongoing changes and transitions during the last nine years have caused confusion among the staff about the station’s mission, their roles and connection to the University, Williams said.

The committee concluded that Michigan Radio needs better audience preference and listening information to make programming and fund-raising decisions.

Michigan Radio should, according to the review committee:

  • Develop a new mission statement and measurable objectives.

  • Form a management team to address lingering human resource and personnel issues.

  • Conduct formal market research to assess audience preferences and satisfaction to increase market share.

  • Draft a strategic management plan to carry out the station’s mission.

  • Strengthen Michigan Radio’s connections to the University community.