WILL Changes FM Format, Cuts Jobs, and Eliminates Weather Department

0 Flares Filament.io 0 Flares ×

ON FEBRUARY 11, 2010 Illinois
Public Media General
Manager Mark Leonard
announced steps the organization’s
leadership will
take to address ongoing
budget concerns and
ensure that Illinois Public Media is sustainable
in a new financial and technological
environment. Changes include:
• Elimination of nine staff positions
• Phasing out the weather department,
resulting in the elimination of inhouse
forecasts for WILL Radio and
WILL-TV. Weather reports and severe
weather coverage will continue, provided
by regular radio staff using
National Weather Service information.
• A change in format for WILL-FM,
which will become a dual-format
radio station April 1, adding news
programs from National Public Radio
to its classical music line-up, while
expanding classical music on the
weekends and retaining its locally
produced music programs
• Shifting WILL-AM staff responsibilities
to provide more in-depth coverage
of local issues, informed by outreach
projects in the community
• Addition of three staff positions, including
a web developer, in critical areas or
areas with potential for revenue growth
The changes are a continuation of a
reorganization, begun last summer,
designed to make Illinois Public Media
competitive as the web and other new
technologies are playing increasingly larger
roles in media, Leonard said. “We cannot
continue to do things the way we’ve done
them in the past,” he said. “If we do, we’re
spreading ourselves too thin across too
many projects. And we’ll miss the opportunities
that technology offers to provide
public media in new ways.”
In addition, Illinois Public Media is
making changes to ensure that its services
can continue in a time of shrinking state
support, he said.
Illinois Public Media has been operating
with a deficit during the current fiscal year as
a result of $110,000 in budget cuts from the
Illinois Arts Council that were announced in
October, he said. Since 2006, Illinois Public
Media’s annual arts council funding has
decreased by more than $280,000 and the
overall state funding picture continues to be
bleak. “We’re cutting deeply enough with
these changes that we hope no more cuts
will be needed next year,” Leonard said. “In
the past, as our state funding decreased,
we’ve relied mostly on attrition to downsize
and automation to cut costs. Most of these
changes have been invisible to the public.
But now we have to make changes that viewers
and listeners will notice.”
Without the steadfast financial support
of members who have been contributing at
about the same rate as last year despite the
bad economy, WILL-TV’s and WILL radio’s
budget situation would be worse, he said.
The Illinois Public Media web site at
will.illinois.edu has a list of frequently
asked questions with more information.
WILL Radio and WILL-TV will eliminate
their independent weather service,
which has employed a full-time meteorologist
and other full- and part-time staff. “We
are proud of our long tradition of weather
coverage… Ed Kieser, Mike Sola, and their
staff have for years dedicated themselves to
making sure our listeners knew when
severe weather threatened as well as bringing
them day-to-day forecasts. But now
that in-depth weather information is available
on the web and elsewhere, we believe
that our limited resources must be applied
to other areas,” said Leonard.
Providing full-service weather costs Illinois
Public Media $140,000 a year, and
only $40,000 of that cost is underwritten
by businesses, Leonard said. WILL Radio
on-air staff will continue to update listeners
on the weather using forecasts and warnings
from the National Weather Service.
The radio severe weather coverage plan is
still in place, with on-air staff providing
updates and warnings when needed.
With the new dual format, WILL-FM
will still air classical music, but also simulcast
the NPR news magazine programs
being broadcast on WILL-AM 580, Morning
Edition and All Things Considered, both of
which contain local WILL-AM newscasts.
In part, the FM format is changing to provide
national and local news to areas west of
Champaign-Urbana where the signal for
WILL’s news and information station, WILLAM,
doesn’t reach, Leonard said. Because of
AM’s limited coverage area to the west and
the fact that WILL-AM must reduce power
after dark, many potential listeners cannot
receive NPR’s signature news magazines, he
said. “We’re taking our strongest NPR programs,
along with our local news, and offering
them on our FM station where they can
be heard by more people.”
“WILL-AM’s signal is strong north and
south, but it’s so limited to the west that
people in southwestern Champaign and
beyond have trouble receiving it,” Leonard
said. WILL wants to serve Mahomet, Monticello
and other communities with news
and information.
Trusted local and national news reporting
is more important than ever, and some
news sources are struggling to remain
viable, he said.
So it is essential that sources such as public
media continue to be available. The reorganization
plan will allow WILL-AM staff to
spend more time on issue-oriented reporting
based on what producers learn from projects
in the community.
“Our commitment to classical music on
WILL-FM remains strong, and classical
music will continue to make up a large
portion of our FM schedule,” Leonard said.
“In fact, we’ll be adding 27 more hours of
classical music on the weekends.” Jazz,
folk and other music formats on Friday
and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons
will be replaced by classical music
from the C-24 classical music service. FM
is already airing music from C-24 in the
mid-morning and afternoon on weekdays,
Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings.
The station will realize a cost savings by
replacing individual programs with the C-
24 service at additional times.
WILL’s locally hosted weekday morning
music program with Vic Di Geronimo will
move from early morning to 9 a.m.–noon
when more people are listening to classical
music, he said. Other locally produced and
hosted FM music programs, Live and Local
with Kevin Kelly, Prairie Performances,
Afternoon at the Opera, Classics by Request
and Classics of the Phonograph will continue
at their current times.
“We know classical music is important
to our FM listeners,” he said. “We don’t
believe we can sustain our classical music
service without changes in our format to
increase our audience and our fundraising.”
On WILL-AM, David Inge and Celeste
Quinn will continue to host weekday local
talk and news magazines. Beginning April 1, the 10 a.m.–noon morning show will be renamed Focus,
and The Afternoon Magazine will begin airing from
noon–1 p.m. The syndicated radio show, Fresh Air, will
begin airing at 1 p.m. in addition to 7 p.m. At 2 p.m.
WILL-AM will air a new one-hour program of enhanced
agriculture and business coverage, hosted by Illinois Public
Media agriculture director Dave Dickey and Closing
Market Report host Todd Gleason.

This entry was posted in Media. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.