UW Combined Fund Drive

September 26, 2023

Listener powered: Public radio in the Pacific Northwest

Public radio was founded with the idea that everyone should have free access to honest, fact-checked information in order to foster a more informed public.

In 1967, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, he said that the airwaves “belong to all the people,” and called for “a partnership to share knowledge and to thus enrich all mankind.”

Supporters of public radio—who, research demonstrates, are overwhelmingly and problematically white, middle-aged and affluent—believe an informed public is essential to a thriving community, a vibrant democracy, and a better future.

Recruiting a younger, more diverse listenership has become a top priority for many public media outlets across the country.

Pacific Northwest stations like KEXP, KPLU and KUOW are non-commercial, not-for-profit organizations. Over the years, programming formats have shifted and the devices listeners use have changed, but local ownership of our region’s public radio stations is here to stay.

What is it that people love about public radio?

Public radio has some serious brand loyalty cred. Public radio audiences have an overall positive perception of the medium. NPR is named every year on lists of many Americans’ most loved brands.

According to a 2020 survey, 80% of listeners feel that what they hear on public radio is personally important, and a whopping 99% of listeners find the information so relevant that they take action in response to something they heard on NPR.

Sponsors are believed to be community-focused and progressive. A big factor in public radio listenership is the fact that it is non-commercial—analysis of major commercial stations shows that commercial radio is up to 16 minutes of spots per hour.

Meanwhile dial-turn research demonstrates that sponsorship messages on public radio stations don’t cause listeners to turn off or change stations. Quite the contrary—sponsors are viewed in a philanthropic light rather than a commercial one, as businesses who are invested in the local community.

Public radio imparts an independent and local perspective. Listeners overwhelmingly believe that public radio offers quality reporting, expert analysis, and thoughtful commentary that connects people to their communities and the world we live in. As nonprofit organizations, public radio stations

The beloved and critical work of public radio is made possible by the contributions of individuals and institutions who believe in the mission of public radio: to create a more informed, thoughtful and appreciative public unafraid of being challenged by difficult ideas.

Support PNW public radio

Consider making a one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our UWCFD-member public radio stations to support their missions of independent, community-minded music and journalism for a better world:

KUOW 94.9 FM (charity code 0315756): To create and serve a more informed public.

KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio is Seattle’s NPR news station and one of the nation’s founding NPR member stations—broadcasting continually since 1952. KUOW produces independent journalism, innovative podcasts, engaging community events and more.

KUOW is a self-sustaining service of UW, with more than 90% of funding from individual contributors and local business supporters. KUOW staff are UW employees who are at the vanguard of shaping public radio’s future.

Read more about the history of KUOW

Along with national programs like All Things Considered and Morning Edition, KUOW offers its own slate of shows including Weekday and The Conversation.

RadioActive Youth Media is a program for young people to discover public radio journalism and gain access to the skills, community and institutional resources that spur their growth as media makers.

KEXP 90.3 FM (charity code 0337127): Where the music matters.

Beloved KEXP began as a student and volunteer-run 10-watt radio station in 1972, KCMU, when four UW students decided the University needed a radio station where students could learn the art of broadcasting and listeners could discover music.

Early DJs laid the groundwork for intentionally seeking out new music and exploring ideas, setting the stage for KEXP’s unique approach to celebrating and championing good music and the people who make it—all within a social justice framework.

KEXP has grown over the years into an innovative, influential cultural force in the Pacific Northwest community and beyond.

Read more about the history of KEXP

KNKX 88.5 FM (charity code 1482095): delivers excellence in jazz, blues and news with stories that inspire, inform and connect our community.

KNKX has served the Pacific Northwest since 1966, playing jazz and blues and national NRP and regional coverage. Signature regional music programs include Jazz Northwest, Jazz Caliente, The New Cool and The Grooveyard.

Standout local podcasts include Forgotten Prison, about the stories of the now-closed McNeil Island Prison in South Puget Sound; The Walk Home, about the trial related to the 2020 killing of Tacoman Manny Ellis; and Outsiders, addressing homelessness in the Puget Sound region.

Listeners may recall the successful listener-powered effort in 2016 to save the station, formerly KPLU. The call letters KNKX stand for “Connects” to acknowledge the station’s commitment to its mission to connect its audience to music and news that inspire and educate.

Operating a network of 12 radio signals that cover Western Washington, KNKX reaches 325,000 listeners weekly. In addition, KNKX.org and its 24-hour jazz stream, Jazz24, reach 350,000 listeners every month online. KNKX has millions of views on its YouTube channel of live jazz and blues performances.

Contributed by Nicole Reeve-Parker