UPDATED: KUHA Lays Off Local On-Air Staff; Classical Music to Come From Minnesota

Classical-music station KUHA-FM has axed almost all its local on-air personalities in favor of a service programmed from Minnesota, the University of Houston announced today.

UH spokesman Richard Bonnin says the station, which along with KUHF Texas Southern University's KTRU-FM is part of an entity called Houston Public Media, will continue to air the music listeners have heard in the past, meaning the programming will be heard on 91.7 FM and not relegated to online streaming.

"There will be no change in how people listen," Bonnin told Hair Balls. "It's just that there won't be local on-air talent." (He notes, "Technical and production staff are still part of the team. Recording engineers and other content staff who produce programming remain in place.") Two on-air personalities will remain, he said.

Among those out of a job are longtime hosts Chris Johnson, Elaine Kennedy, Chris Hathaway and Bob Stevenson.

Not everyone's happy, of course. Says one former employee, "I'd ask what they're going to do about all the listeners who just donated during [the] on air campaign. They donate to get the local personality of the station, because otherwise, CDs are fine."

A UH press release says the KUHA program The Front Row will undergo changes.

The Front Row is being "re-imagined into multi-platform local content that exposes artists and arts organizations to wider audiences," said Lisa Shumate, executive director and general manager of Houston Public Media. "The new Arts and Culture Team will continue service to the local arts community via multiplatform initiatives with Arts Insight, Manor of Speaking, and Houston Matters -- all local programming that launched in 2013," Shumate said.

Chris Johnson wrote this on his Facebook page: "Friends, as of 7:35am I am no longer employed at Classical 91.7. I, along with almost all of my colleagues, had our positions eliminated today. Thanks for your love and support. I'm touched by the outpouring of concern and kind thoughts. I love you and I love Houston."

The university says its move to non-local programming is "in keeping with trends in the industry." In all, eight people were laid off, including six four on-air hosts.

Not to worry, though:

Houston Public Media announced Thursday (Nov. 7) it is creating an Arts and Culture Team to increase and enhance coverage of the city's vibrant arts community.  Creation of the Arts and Culture Team is the latest in a series of moves by Houston Public Media to add increased capabilities in local multi-platform content development, and realign staff to strengthen local news coverage, web initiatives and public affairs programming.

So there's that.

Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

Send your story tips to the author, Richard Connelly.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly