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The new KUHA

No staff changes expected at KUHF as Houston radio merger set for May moves closer

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KUHF studio Courtesy of KUHF
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News_Nancy Wozny_recordings_KUHF Studio

As the University of Houston's purchase of FM 91.7 — formerly the home of Rice University's KTRU — inches toward becoming official, CultureMap chatted with KUHF CEO John Proffitt about timelines, programming and management.

To catch up: 91.7 was formerly owned by Rice University, which operated an eclectic, independent and experimental student-run music station. That frequency and tower have been purchased by the University of Houston, which will begin broadcasting an all-new, all-classical station, KUHA, from 91.7 once the purchase is finalized in a few weeks. The University of Houston's existing public station, KUHF, which is at FM 88.7, will become an all-news and information station. Phew!

Now that's out of the way . . .

The FCC has officially approved UH's purchase of the 91.7 FM transmitter, and Proffitt says UH anticipates closing around mid-May. "We'll start broadcasting from 91.7 very shortly thereafter," Proffitt says, with KUHA broadcasting classical music 24/7 from 91.7 and 88.7's KUHF adopting a 24-hour news and information format.

KUHF, the University of Houston's legacy station, will carry programs from NPR, American Public Media, BBC and others in its expanded news programming, Proffitt says.

KUHA should begin broadcasting classical music on the same day that KUHF switches to an all-news format. "The actual target date is somewhat fluid, but we're guessing around the week of May 16 or 17," Proffitt says. "It's tentative, because it depends on the actual, approved closing."

UH's high-definition channels will switch back and forth between the two program streams, with KUHF-HD1 becoming all news and information when 88.7's programming changes. KUHF-HD2 will, in turn, become all-classical when 91.7 begins broadcasting all-classical programming. KUHF-HD3 is the only high-def stream whose modifications are still being worked out.

"They're not significant, but there will be changes," Proffitt says of that channel.

The reach of 91.7's transmitter is slightly less than that of 88.7's, but Proffitt says he does not anticipate any insurmountable issues for listeners outside the signal area. Although areas in Houston's "extreme south" will lose signal, Proffitt says UH will simulcast the classical service on 88.7's HD 2 digital channel as well as stream that audio online.

Interestingly, Proffitt says that no staff changes are expected with the addition of an all-new station. Proffitt will remain as CEO, Debra Fraser as station manager and COO, Capella Tucker as news program director and St. John Flynn as classical program director.

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