BYU Broadcasting is giving up its PBS television affiliation and abandoning its classical music format on radio.
As of June 30, KBYU-Channel 11 will terminate its affiliation with PBS and become an over-the-air outlet for cable/satellite channel BYUtv in Utah. On the radio side, KBYU-FM will become an over-the-air outlet for BYUradio, currently available on Sirius XM and online, and eliminate its classical music programming. It’s part of a “strategic plan.”
“If we had a clean sheet and were building a new broadcast organization today, I don’t think you’d look at either of those formats,” said Michael Dunn, managing director of BYU Broadcasting. “It’s tough, because it involves some broadcast properties that are much-loved.”
But focusing on BYUtv and BYUradio “just kind of become a no-brainer in terms of what we need to do.”
All the PBS programming that airs on KBYU-Channel 11 can also be found on KUED-Channel 7. The transition for classical-music listeners will be more difficult; there are no other classical-music stations on regular AM or FM radio in Utah. (KUER has a classical-music feed, KUER3, that’s available on HD radio or streaming online.)
Dunn, who was general manager of KUED from 2010-13, recalled the “firestorm” that erupted when KUER dropped its music formats on its main FM station.
“It’s going to cause some consternation. And I’m sensitive to that,” he said. “But in this digital era, there are so many resources for classical music that it just really doesn’t make sense” to maintain the status quo at KBYU-FM.
Dunn promised advertising and outreach that will point TV viewers to PBS programming on KUED and radio listeners to other ways to find classical music.
“This is not the Baltimore Colts leaving town in the middle of the night,” he said.
Dunn also said that some radio shows may migrate from KBYU-FM to a BYUradio lineup that includes talk (about travel, parenting, literature, faith, etc.) and sports (both live events and studio shows). And “a more concentrated program about classical music” could join the lineup.
There’s no such issue with KBYU-Channel 11. On Monday, for example, two-thirds of the TV schedule — 18 shows — is also available on KUED.
That doesn’t make sense,” Dunn said. “You just can’t do that in this day and age. So why not double down on what really is the future for us, which is BYUtv?”
KUED General Manager James Morgese noted that “KBYU has been a longtime partner in providing public television service in Utah. We wish them well in their next chapter.”
“While we’ll miss the good relationship we had with them, Utahns can continue finding all their favorite PBS programs, including the children’s programs they trust, on both KUED and our 24/7 PBS Kids channel.”
Only one show will transition from KBYU to BYUtv — the student-produced local newscast. And that will continue to air only on Channel 11 in Utah.
There’s a bonus for BYU fans who subscribe to DirecTV or Dish — they’ll be able to watch Cougar sports in HD. (BYUtv is not in HD on those two satellite systems, but KBYU is.)
BYU is also shutting down BYUtv International, which achieved only “limited distribution” on broadcast, cable and satellite in the United States and Latin America.
“We don’t have enough resources to really make a dent in Latin America,” Dunn said. “So my hope is that we sort of retrench a little bit there.”
The plan is to develop “quality” programming for Spanish speakers in the United States “and then build out again.”
All the changes will be accomplished without layoffs.
“I’m going to tell the staff on Monday. … There are no jobs lost in this transition,” Dunn said, although some employees will be reassigned.
He emphasized that the changes are not cost-cutting measures. As a matter of fact, BYU Broadcasting will be forfeiting millions of dollars in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by leaving PBS.
Funding “wasn’t even part of the consideration,” Dunn said. “It really is an effort to do what’s best for our future.”
That future will continue to include co-productions with KUED “all the way to PBS or even the BBC,” Dunn said. “We expect to be a serious player in providing amazing, family-oriented content that we think is going to get some attention. We’re attracting co-production opportunities with some big-time companies who also see our vision and our commitment and want to be on board with us.”