KUAZ urged to put show back on
April 9, 2005

By Lourdes Medrano  http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/metro/69651.php


The cancellation of a long-running Spanish-language program by the University of Arizona's National Public Radio affiliate last month has alienated some loyal listeners and prompted a local Hispanic coalition to push for its return.

John Kelley, station manager at KUAZ (89.1-FM and 1550-AM) blamed the demise of "Radio Universidad" on low ratings. "We knew after many years we did not have very many Spanish-speaking listeners," he said.
For 25 years, the two-hour program explored education, immigration, legal affairs and other topics of interest to Spanish-speakers in Tucson.
Members of the Spanish-speaking community have questioned the station's decision to cancel the show, saying it flies in the face of the university's efforts to reach out to the area's growing Hispanic community.
Frank Felix, president of the Tucson Hispanic Coalition, said the program was an educational show that was unparalleled in Southern Arizona. "It was extremely significant for our community in this global economy and global society," he said.
The coalition, which represents 24 local organizations, has requested a meeting with station management. The group is seeking a long-term commitment from KUAZ to better serve Hispanic listeners, Felix said.
Jack Parris, director and general manager of KUAT Communications Group, said he received the coalition's March 31 letter on Wednesday. Although he plans to meet with the group to discuss its concerns, Parris said the station will not bring back the Spanish-language show.
The coalition seems to be under the impression that KUAZ has eliminated all its Spanish-language programming, Parris said, which is not the case.
The new KUAZ now includes "Radio Reflexiones," a 30-minute bilingual co-production with KUAT-TV that airs every Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and Latino USA, an English-language program produced from a Latino perspective.
The KUAT Communications Group includes KUAZ, KUAT-FM and public television station KUAT-TV, Channel 6.
Francisco Marmolejo, executive director of the North American Higher Education Collaboration at the UA, said the new radio program does not sufficiently address the needs of Tucson's Hispanic community.
"There is a lot of room for improvement," said Marmolejo.
Hector Gonzalez, executive producer of "Radio Reflexiones," said he agrees with critics of the new show that it could be better. "We've just begun; this is a work in progress."
The bilingual show may disappoint listeners who preferred the Spanish-only format, he said, but the format aims to reach a wider audience.
Gonzalez, a veteran of bilingual broadcasts who also produces its sister television show, said his long-term goal is for "Radio Reflexiones" to provide Hispanics increased access to the university community.
Manager Kelley said it will take time to know whether the new weekend schedule, which includes NPR programming like "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!"; "To The Best of Our Knowledge," "Fresh Air Weekend," "All Things Considered," "Justice Talking" and "Latino USA," is attracting more listeners.
So far, Kelley said, he has received just 15 complaints via phone and e-mail since "Radio Universidad" was canceled in February, compared with 700 e-mails when the station replaced its weekday jazz programming with extended news in 2003.
He said the station, which gets most of its funding from listener donations, cannot afford to have "low listenership and little member support."
Lisa Teran, 32, who speaks Spanish and English fluently, is one of the listeners upset over the loss of "Radio Universidad." For years, she tuned in every Sunday afternoon to listen to UA educators and other native Spanish-speakers.
● Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or at lmedrano@azstarnet.com.