The University Record, September 24, 1996

WUOM is topic of public comments

The recent changes in programming and staff at Michigan Radio were the focus of three speakers---all of whom are long-time listeners and supporters of the stations---at last week's public comments session during the Regents meeting.

Donald E. Jahncke said he has enjoyed all of WUOM's programs, including classical music, which he can easily get from several other stations.

"The change in WUOM programming means I now can listen to `only' three daytime classical stations instead of four. The loss is more than worth it, however, when I consider the education and the intellectual stimulation I am receiving from the `Diane Rehm Show,' the `Derek McGinty Show,' and Ray Suarez's `Talk of the Nation, ' three outstanding programs I had never heard before.

"There is a serious absence in the media of informed, balanced, in-depth consideration of the major issues facing the nation and the world. WUOM is now helping to correct that deficit."

Jahncke also noted he feels "the primary mission of a university-based radio station should be to educate its listeners so they can participate in our democracy as informed citizens . . . by providing the authoritative information which will enable them to improve their personal lives and the society in which we live."

"So, I want to thank and congratulate Donovan Reynolds for his brave and bold move, for improving the operation of WUOM. The format is now fresh, crisp and contemporary, and my old favorites are still provided."

Speakers Richard Taylor and Helmut Schick attacked the programming and staff changes, and charged that the station had participated in "bait-and-switch" tactics during its spring fundraising campaign.

Taylor said that the "University has alienated many of its public radio listeners and contributors," adding that "this is a tragedy for the University and WUOM. I don't think this is what the University intended to accomplish by the changes."

In alleging the "bait-and-switch" tactics, Taylor noted that a group named CATBUMPR (Citizens and Alumni to Take Back University of Michigan Public Radio) has asked the state attorney general to investigate the situation, "pending the willingness of the Regents and the University to reopen some of the issues raised in our petition."

"If the current course of programming is not reversed, it is our contention that the University should return all funds from the 1996 fund-raisers to contributors, on the grounds that they were collected under false pretenses."

Taylor also maintained that the changes made "were based on dubious research, bought and paid for by the very organization (NPR) that stands to gain financially from the changes in format and the elimination of local programming."

Schick said he was "shocked by the duplicitous actions the station management when they abruptly changed format in July."

He contended that the posting of a position during the spring fund-raiser "shows that Michigan Radio management did indeed mislead its staff and the listeners and contributors to the stations, who were told that they were supporting programming as it was at that time."

He also charged that the audience analysis study had several inherent fallacies, including funding by an agency "that stood to benefit from its `successful' outcome, that the study was based on old data," and that it did not include stations WVGR or WFUM.

"The report contained no summary, no hypothesis, no reliability statistics, no conclusion, no recommendations. It followed no format that one would expect from what Mr. Reynolds has referred to as `research.'

"To echo a line from the petition," Schick added, "I was once a friend and volunteer at Michigan Radio. In fact, I helped produce several programs with Alan Young; one was a documentary that won two awards. In the right circumstances I could become a friend once again."