Classical Music in Houston: A Letter from Ron Rand

Ron Rand is chair of the Houston Public Media Foundation Board. This letter ran in the Houston Chronicle on September 17, 2015.

Houston Public Media is a community service that reaches 1.5 million people a week through its radio stations, television station, website and mobile apps. It delivers news, cultural programming and educational content that serves a wide variety of audiences and makes the Greater Houston area a better place to live.

While Houston Public Media’s award-winning mixture of local and national content comes to you free, it is not free to run the operations to deliver this experience 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The recent University of Houston Board of Regents vote to combine the broadcast technical facilities of KUHF and KUHA will provide operating efficiencies only made possible through digital technology. This will make our public media stronger and better positioned to continue delivering quality programming.

So let’s set the record straight about the coming changes. Houston Public Media is not abandoning the delivery of classical music programming. Classical music will continue to have a full-time home in Houston on 88.7 HD-2. And it will sound clearer and better than the current analog signal.

Current trends indicate that HD and digital-streaming platforms will continue to grow in popularity. The proliferation of Bluetooth technology on phones, tablets and radios puts classical music literally in the hands of a substantial portion of the listening audience. Additionally, HD radios are increasingly standard equipment in cars of many makes and models. This shift allows classical to be broadcast digitally and listening in HD provides a free over-the air broadcast that does not require a subscription.

Further evidence of Houston Public Media’s commitment to classical music is our recent announcement of the new Sunday night Houston Symphony broadcast series on 88.7. This new series will begin Sunday, Sept. 27, featuring current season concerts along with favorite past performances.

This new Houston Symphony programming, along with expanded arts and culture news coverage, underscore Houston Public Media’s dedication to cultural programming.

The media landscape is competitive and crowded. What separates Houston Public Media is its sole purpose to serve your need for lifelong learning and inspiration while helping to expand the minds and possibilities of all in our area. No matter what time of day, or what device you may turn to, Houston Public Media will be there.

Recent commentary in the Chronicle (“Classic letdown,” Page B15, Sunday; “Classical radio needlessly silenced in city” Page B11, Sept. 10) about the sale of KUHA has not offered readers a full picture of what factors have been in play. Many people may not realize that Houston Public Media is not funded by the University of Houston, nor does it receive funding from local or state governments. Further, funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting only account for approximately 10 percent of our annual operating budget.

Today, fewer than 5 percent of the 1.5 million people a week who rely on Houston Public Media programming help to pay for it. If you love the classical music Houston Public Media delivers, don’t take it for granted. The economic reality is that without the financial support of the individual, Houston Public Media would not exist.

Not everyone is in a position to provide financial support, but for those who are, the financial support they provide is critical for Houston Public Media to deliver classical programming as a community service.

Working together, we can ensure that Houston Public Media will continue to meet its mission today and well into the future.

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