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Updated: August 4, 2022 @ 6:16 am
University of North Texas Student Union
University of North Texas Student Union
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that KNTU would be broadcasting from the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival this fall. The station’s program, news and operations manager says it will not.
The University of North Texas’ student-run radio station KNTU shifted its long-running jazz music format to indie alternative programming Friday at noon.
The station was previously known as “88.1 The One” rebranded to “88.1 Indie.” In addition, listeners can currently stream indie music on 881indie.com, which is in its early stages of website construction. The station’s longtime jazz programming has not disappeared. It will instead be streamed at kntu.com.
General Manager Dan Balla said the station’s shift was due to low listeners, no donation support and UNT students’ disinterest in jazz.
“We struggled with listenership, we struggled with donations, and our other mission is to give students an education and experience working at a radio station,” Balla said. “And most of the students, the vast majority, just really not excited by jazz.”
Balla said the programming change was a long time coming, and it should have happened years ago since data showed that jazz listeners had fallen.
“The average quarter-hour of listeners during an average week … was roughly 100, 200, in the low one-hundreds,” Balla said.
Balla said the demographic age of the listeners was largely men aged 60-plus, which is not a demographic that attracts advertisers. He said the donations have been weak.
KNTU is a noncommercial radio station licensed to UNT. This noncommercial status prohibits KNTU from selling commercial time and airing commercials. KNTU is allowed, however, to solicit underwriting and air underwriter announcements.
Balla recalls that a local Denton bank, one of the station’s underwriters, dropped the station since it didn’t have enough of an audience. Balla said getting support from local businesses and pledge drives has been challenging.
“I can tell you that it [underwriting] was incredibly weak,” Bella said. And it was not for lack of trying. I can’t tell you how many businesses I called. Dozens and dozens, hundreds of businesses I called would not return my call, did not want to advertise, did not want to support us in any way.”
Balla said he hopes the new format will attract more students to volunteer or work at the station. He said it’s been difficult for the station to hire students since there is interest in jazz.
As for the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival in October, the station will continue to have a presence at the festival, although it won’t be broadcasting live from the fest, according to Mark Lambert, the station’s program, news and operations manager.
“We will not be broadcasting the festival’s music as we have done in the past. … We do intend to have a presence at the festival, but more as a vendor,” Lambert said in an email.
Time will whether the new format will bring in a new audience, donations and support.
“I do think our audience will grow,” Balla said. “And I do think donations will grow and I do think listener support will grow, and I think students will be more excited. If I didn’t think about those things, we wouldn’t have made the switch.”
The station officially went on air on Oct. 31, 1969, with only 440 watts at 88.5 FM. The station later switched to 88.1 FM and has been on the air 24 hours, every day of the year, broadcasting with 100,000 watts.
JUAN BETANCOURT can be reached via Twitter at @jbetancourt_15.
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