Dallas Radio Goes Public

Beginning at the end of May or early June, Dallasites will have a new and unique radio station. KERA-FM, 90.1 on the dial, will be the city’s first public radio outlet and will provide a welcome relief from the inane, shrill banter of jingles and jive from the top-40 jocks that seems to explode in your ear from every other station.

Public radio has no commercials. It is funded by a variety of foundations—mainly the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and the Public Communication Foundation for North Texas—and will be affiliated with KERA-TV, Channel 13. About 30 percent of the budget will come from listeners.

Station manager Bruce McKenzie and program director Tony Garrett hope to give Dallas listeners a literate, though not highbrow, station that will broadcast programs ranging from the weekly city council meeting each Monday afternoon to “Lum and Abner.”

“A regular station’s goal is to sell their audience to an advertiser. Our goal will be to sell ourselves to our audience,” said the 27-year-old McKenzie. “We will sign on at 6:30 with a morning block of talk and commentary with five-minute newscasts on the hour. Some weeks we will devote the entire week to one local issue. Hopefully, listeners will call in and provide a dialogue that will be lively and thought-provoking.”

In the evening, KERA-FM will simulcast Channel 13’s popular “Newsroom” and will continue broadcasting the listener response feedback portion of the program after the 30-minute show has ended. Following “Newsroom” will be some of the old time radio classics: “Lum and Abner,” “Lux Radio Theatre,” and the excellent CBS Mercury Radio shows that were produced by Orson Welles.

Jazz fanatics will welcome the nightly 10 p.m.-1 a.m. show done by Cowboy rookie tight end, Gene Fugett. Also during the week will be offerings from National Public Radio, including Jean Shepherd, Studs Terkel, and the outstanding single program on any network, “All Things Considered.” After attending Yale on a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship, an aborted trip to graduate school, and a 1970 tour in Viet Nam, McKenzie began working in public radio in Boston before coming to Dallas.

“One of the problems of public radio is that it lacks identity. You can’t describe the station in one phrase like ‘top 40’ or ‘middle-of-the-road.’ Some like KUT-FM in Austin tend toward fine arts. We hope to be more of a magazine format and try to avoid the ear-wash of most other stations.

“Just so things don’t get too serious we will occasionally schedule on Saturday something offbeat like a full 18 hours of barbershop quartets or bluegrass. Maybe 18 hours of Gershwin or the entire 1812 Overture. I want people to get something out of our programming.”

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