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Project Overview
September 2002

Strengthening the value we deliver to our listeners is at the top of many stations' agendas. How we might do that within one of our core franchises, classical music, is the focus of a Charting the Territory initiative in partnership with Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) and four public radio stations.

Public radio is clearly moving in the direction of multiple, differentiated program streams in which focused formats increasingly stand alone on a given station's schedule or on our other delivery channels, from web streams to satellite channels. We need a sharp understanding of the unique appeal, core values, and importance to listeners of each of our major content choices.

News and information programming and classical music are the engines that drive the major portion of public radio's audience service. But if we put all that we know about audience response to our news alongside all that we know about response to our music, the imbalance is dramatic. This project provides valuable new material for the music side of the equation.

SRG and PRPD set out to:

    Explore how public radio's classical service can strengthen its value to and connection with listeners

    Gain a better understanding of the values and qualities current classical programming brings to those who like it best

    Create a vocabulary that clearly articulates those values and qualities

SRG and PRPD enlisted four partners in the project: WQED, Pittsburgh, WNED, Buffalo, KPAC, San Antonio and KBAQ, Phoenix. Each of the partner stations provides a full-time classical music service and is the only classical radio station in its community. We conducted listener focus groups in the four partner communities in May and June 2002. Groups were also done in two cities where a commercial station is the sole source of classical music radio. The groups were conducted by Walrus Research, which also worked with PRPD on its 2001 study of the Core Values of Local News/Information Programming.

In addition to the four primary station partners, we formed a project "sounding board" to provide project input and feedback. This group includes representatives from NPR, PRI, the Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio (AMPPR) and a number of public radio stations that provide significant classical music programming. [Read minutes from the Sounding Board's brainstorming session on research objectives.]

Findings from the project were presented at SRG's annual planning retreat in August 2002 and the PRPD Annual Conference in September 2002. George Bailey of Walrus Research concentrated on the "uses and gratifications" of classical radio, which are set out in detail in a project report. PRPD's Marcia Alvar highlighted the "core values" listeners find ing classical music radio.

This new study is the third in PRPD's ongoing Core Values Project. PRPD members can read other reports from that project on PRPD's website. SRG's national planning initiative, Charting the Territory, is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and SRG member stations.