Media Watch

KUAT Warns of Future Layoffs

The UA's broadcast entity, KUAT, is facing significant changes, and pink slips are likely to be part of the future for some of KUAT's 80-plus employees.

It's early in the process--so nothing has been finalized--but the move is part of restructuring implemented under first-year general manager Jack Gibson.

"We don't know totally what's going on, and we don't want to say for sure until we know exactly what's going on," said Michael Serres, KUAT director of creative services. "Any time you make a change, that's at the top of the planning discussion. Several people at the station are retiring, me included. I think it's kind of early to make absolute plans. We're part of the university, and there are budget issues."

KUAT has done well in its fundraising drives, but like every other state institution, financial assistance from government sources is a lot less certain.

"I would say it's in a state of flux right now," Serres said. "There are some money issues, but I don't want to say it's gloom and doom, either. We are dealing with some realities. We are looking at every variable.

"I think the whole point of this is dealing with changes in an ever-changing industry. Media changes so quickly. We have to look at the best way to approach our revenue streams while remaining viable in the community. Hopefully, that will generate the role we need to play in the community."

Serres will wrap up his 30-year stint with the UA on June 30. He plans on earning a certificate in elementary education and moving into the teaching ranks.


Citadel-owned KHYT, Rock 107.5 FM., has shifted syndicated morning show Opie and Anthony to the 3 to 6 a.m. slot, where it will be broadcast live. General manager Ken Kowalcek made the change on Wednesday, May 16.

"The ratings could have been better," Kowalcek said. "It's not due to any of the XM issues."

Satellite radio provider XM recently suspended Opie and Anthony for a month after a guest made rape-based derogatory comments about Laura Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Queen Elizabeth. The decision led to a flood of subscriber cancellations, and it severely damaged one of XM's major selling points--that, as a satellite provider, it could say whatever it wanted since it wasn't under the control the Federal Communications Commission.

While the recent Don Imus controversy played a role in XM's decision, the pending merger with satellite competitor Sirius was likely a major factor in the suspension. The merger, of course, requires government approval, and satellite radio's content has been used as a sounding-board issue by many senators overhearing the merger request--even though content has nothing to do with the monopoly-related concerns that should be the government's focus.

On the terrestrial side, Opie and Anthony continue their syndicated program, but in Tucson, their early-morning banishment is due more to 107.5's decision to pursue a music-driven approach, according to Kowalcek.

"We found that as we moved throughout the day, our ratings with music continue to grow," Kowalcek said. "We do really well in areas where we play lots of music, so we decided to do that in mornings as well. We moved Tim (Tyler) back to mornings, but it's going to be a much more music-intensive show than it has been the last couple of years."

Tyler, a veteran of rock morning radio in Tucson, has worked on two occasions with Mike Rapp, first with KLPX FM 96.1 in the '90s and most recently on 107.5. Opie and Anthony replaced them last year.

The move may also reflect two other issues: First, ratings continue to show that Tucson likes local morning programming. While not impossible, it's been difficult for syndicated fare to get a consistent foothold in the market. Second, 107.5's slight format change might be paying dividends. Instead of sticking with a classic-rock format tied to the '70s and '80s--the approach that has been hugely successful for KLPX for a number of years--107.5 has added a mix of '90s rock and the occasional new addition.

Tyler's shift moves program director Darrin Arriens' on-air time to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. John Dennis (JR) has moved into the 3 to 7 p.m. slot. The station continues its search for a permanent night host.


It isn't often that a commercial gets special mention in Media Watch--indeed, this is the first time--but after catching Spartan Plumbing's ad on KMSB Channel 11, I thought an exception was deserved.

In 30 seconds of local television brilliance, the Spartans parody the movie 300. This isn't your typical, awkward local production of Chris Edwards pitching dinged up refrigerators for Tucson Appliance while dressed as Spider-Man. No, the Spartan plumbers have taken their craft to a new level, and in a half minute, they manage to capture the absurdity of 300, from their not-so-Soloflex physiques to the bombastic bellows of glory achieved by clearing the drains.

Plumbing has never experienced melodrama like this.

"I don't know who came up with the concept, but ... it's a great idea," said KMSB general manager Tod A. Smith. "My wife watched it the first time it came on, and she said, 'You know what? I'd call them.'

"First, I remember it. Secondly, I would call them. It's great. It's hilarious. Everybody's worried about people bypassing commercials. If it's compelling, people watch it. In this case, it's entertaining. It becomes part of the (program) content."

My Ad Fed card hasn't been updated, so I probably can't cast my vote on best Tucson TV commercial, but if this 30 seconds of rousing visual literature doesn't get an ADDY, lo, that will be the real crime.

When the ADDYs put together their list of 100 Greatest Tucson Commercials of All Time, the Spartan Plumbing ad had better be No. 1, ahead of four Jim and Chris Click classics that round out an elite Top 10.