Hell and Farewell

The Scuttling of KCSN (?) 
Rumors now abound from high in that the University  has decided to sell KCSN the excellent little  station for which the University holds the broadcast license – perhaps by as early as July 1st.. As we last reported, Dean Robert Bucker (he of the deceptive letter in our last post) had initially arranged for Minnesota Public Radio to provide their Classical Lite ‘stream’ to replace KCSN award-winning “eclectic” ARTS & ROOTS format.
Perhaps as an aid to lessening the impact of their scuttling the station, Dean Bucker has not only cancelled the most recent Pledge Drive and fired Les Perry, KCSN’s leading programmer and fund-raiser, but has now taken KCSN’s stream off the Internet.
The question is why. 
The current crisis at KCSN – if it has not already been resolved to the station’s extreme detriment – has its origin in a misunderstanding of the station’s functioning – especially in regards to transmitter power. As reported in Performances magazine – KCSN has the weakest signal of any Southern California radio station: 370 watts.  The range of all other stations is between 5,000 and 100,000 watts.  Thus KCSN has produced $42/per watt, far more than most public stations. Despite the fact that the station has received “Best of LA” from Los Angeles Magazine, is currently the station of choice for the Arts Community (where it enjoys an entirely favorable prestige, and that the station’s last 16 pledge drives have shown consistent increases from 5-15%, the University in the person of Dean Bucker (to whom KCSN reports)  has declared the station to be “underperforming”.
Further, these successes have been achieved with a staff of 5 full-time employees and 2 paid part-time announcers.  More importantly is the lamentable fact that in the last 8 years CSUN has contributed nothing for Marketing for KCSN.   Not one penny.  While other “classical” stations have not only vastly greater power, and have spent large sums on bus-cards, print advertising and other marketing strategies, KCSN has relied exclusively on word-of-mouth.
CSUN was approached with excellent opportunities for marketing and fund-raising by a uniquely credible entities. In addition a major LA broadcaster has tried to approach Bucker with a plan to fund and manage KCSN, bringing marketing, advertising and operating funds to remove all costs from CSUN’s responsibility,  to no avail
 So, a unique jewel of a broadcast entity faces extinction because of CSUN’s failure to perform its fundamental task of business analysis: Strengths and Weakness. Here is a brief sketch:
As currently constituted KCSN is the product of the fertile brain, abundant spirit, and love of the Arts of retired Dean (of the College of Arts Media and Communication) William Toutant, PhD., an acclaimed composer, music professor, author of books on Music Theory and Host of The KCSN Opera House. The station is the result of Bill’s extraordinary vision, dedication to standards of excellence and hard work.  It was Dr. Toutant who hired Martin Perlich as Program Director. Recently Bill has said:”The best thing I ever did as Dean was to hire Martin and let him have his head.” 
In the ensuing 8 years Dr. Toutant’s faith has been rewarded: As Program Director Martin Perlich has brought uniquely thoughtful, high quality programming to KCSN. In the hands of Morning Host Ian Freebairn-Smith and Midday Host Laura Brodian the station has been able to present the best and broadest classical selection in Los Angeles.  As on-air Afternoon Host, Perlich has brought innovative programs such as his daily The Audition Booth (fresh out-of-the-box new releases) and Cost-Conscious Classix (Budget CDs), as well as Martin Perlich Interviews, his archive of historic chats with Leonard Bernstein, Frank Zappa, George Szell, Gore Vidal, Isaac Stern Itzhak, Perlman and hundreds more), As author of The Art of the Interview (Silman-James 2007) Perlich also  hosts ARF!! (Arts & Roots Forum,) daily live interviews with “major contributors to Arts & Roots  in Southern California”: Stacy Keach, Paul O’Dette, Terry Riley, Cecilia Bartoli,  YoYo Ma, legendary jazzman Buddy Colette, satirist Sandra Tsing-Loh, Henry Winkler and Sarah Chang,  as well as a wide variety of major cutting edge playwrights, filmmakers, authors, world music performers, choreographers, actors and directors. 
Unfortunately Toutant suffered a major coronary in 2006, and retired as dean. He was replaced by an interim dean who, despite having little if any understanding of broadcast, decided to attack the station’s Strengths – and change the station’s format. Fortunately, at the end of his term the Interim Dean returned to his academic chores.
The new incoming permanent dean is a man of high musical and administrative achievement.  Robert Bucker is a man of probity, intelligence, discernment and high standards. Perhaps because of his newness, and the urgent need to attend to the many problems left to him by the inexperienced and unready Interim dean, the new dean initially focused little if any attention on  KCSN.  He declared in his first meeting with KCSN staff “You’re not on my ‘radar screen’”.  More distressing was his decision once his attention had turned to KCSN that station “fund-raising was paltry.” When informed of the station’s 370 watts transmitting power – which is truly “paltry”, he admitted ignorance of that fact.  So his judgment of KCSN’s performance – and subsequent decision to change format – was made in absence of sufficient research of the key facts: low power and total absence of marketing budget to make an informed decision. Why else abandon a long and well-established niche in the LA radio market of over 100 “sticks” with the mere hope of rebuilding audience, membership, prestige and fund-raising.
This precipitous decision threatens the Los Angeles cultural, and broader listening audience with the removal of one its greatest (if weakest) gems, a station broadcasting programs of broad ranging classical music: new music by living composers and major 20th century masters, ancient music, plus chamber, choral, instrumental and vocal music heard on no other station in the LA market. 
In addition to classical – 6:00AM – 6:00 PM weekdays – evenings and weekends are filled with “Roots” music of the highest and most diverse nature: bluegrass, blues, rockabilly, jazz, singer/songwriter, “classic country”, plus substantive shows devoted to the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. When one adds to this mix the unique informational programs on the visual arts, psychology, women’s issues and wellness, it is clear that the effects of KCSN’s disappearance will be deeply felt.
This is especially true when one considers that CSUN is currently building a new Performing Arts Center costing $125 million at current estimate, and called the “Valley Arts Center”, focusing primarily on the needs of residents of the San Fernando Valley and the large populations of adjacent communities.  Since we know that Dean Bucker’s first choice of replacement formats for KCSN was a “stream” of light classical music based in the Midwest, this would present at least an apparent contradiction to the avowed “localism” proclaimed by CSUN President Jolene Koester, whose “baby” the Performing Arts Center has been – except for the now-overlooked contribution of the of the above-mentioned Dr. William Toutant, whose idea it was in the first place.
Ah, bureaucracy! Ah, Humanity.
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ANOTHER DEPARTURE: I began writing out here just a little short of 30 years ago, covering musical events here and up north for an ill-fated, ill-considered attempt to clone the magazine that had sent me out here. What made life even partially bearable was the treatment I was accorded by the press department at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Public-relations offices and print critics are not supposed to trust one another beyond each other’s earshot, and the notion of genuine human cordiality is a commodity that is not expected to exist in the shadow of those filing cabinets and Xerox machines 
    Norma Flynn made it that way, a public-relations genius and a warm-hearted momma who turned the job into a genuinely human interaction. Adam Crane hasn’t been a warm-hearted momma, but he’s been a pal, and that’s even rarer in p-r annals. His reasons for moving on are so human that you can’t be angry: he’s going home to Saint Louis, where his Dad isn’t well, his grandparents are really old, and  he has a great job with the Symphony Orchestra under David Robertson which is becoming truly important and adventurous.  If I didn’t  know what Saint Louis feels like in the summer, I’d be truly jealous

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