KUHA fires top talent over funding downturn

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KUHA_logoThe $9 million sale of Rice University’s KTRU-FM Houston (now Classical KUHA) to University of Houston’s Houston Public Media has potentially put the organization in a bit of a pickle, as a source tells CultureMap that the station’s main personalities Bob Stevenson, Elaine Kennedy, Chris Johnson and Chris Hathaway have been laid off, as well as a few behind-the-scenes staffers. “The Front Row,” a radio series that regularly featured local artists and nonprofit arts organizations, also shuttered.


Rice’s student-run KTRU since launched on Pacifica Foundation’s KPFT’s 90.1 HD2 channel. UH converted KUHF converting to an all-news format (KUHF News) and the KTRU 91.7 frequency became KUHA.

CEO Lisa Trapani Shumate told the former employees that insufficient funds from a recent nine-day fundraiser was mostly to blame, said the story. When the effort ended, KUHA was $74,000 short of its $200,000 goal while sister station, News KUHF-FM, was only able to secure $800,000 of its $1 million goal.

Shumate also cut 12 employees (in 2/11) in production, programming, technology and administration as part of a reorganization that combined KUHF, KUHA and PBS KUHT-TV as one entity, said CultureMap.

In June, Shumate, who reportedly makes $270K a year, also eliminated the director of operations position and fired KUHA GM Debra Fraser and director of communications Emily Binetti. Fraser’s departure upset George Geary, the station’s most generous individual donor. He withdrew a $500,000 matching challenge upon learning of Shumate’s decision, said the story.

Adding to KUHA’s troubles its Kingwood, TX-based tower. It’s apparently too low for the signal to pass through tall buildings in downtown Houston, causing reception problems in offices—likely a good chunk of the listenership.

As for programming moving forward, KUHA will broadcast content from “Classical 24,” Minnesota Public Radio’s nationally syndicated service. Still employed at KUHA are director of classical programming St. John Flynn and content producer and announcer Catherine Lu, who’s on maternity leave.

Despite the dismissals, Shumate did hire more than 15 people recently across the organization in customer service, finance, development and production.

See the CultureMap story here.


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Marcucci: Do you have current contact information for the staffers who’ve been let go at KUHA? I’d like to extend my condolences and thank them for their years of excellent work, especially Elaine Kennedy and Chris Johnson.

    William Gould
    Senior copy editor
    Houston Chronicle

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