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KUSC's Return to Format Welcomed

September 14, 1996

KUSC's impending return to its previous format is good news for classical music listeners in Southern California ("KUSC Will Play More of Classics," Calendar, Sept. 7). As one of the dissatisfied listeners cited in the article, I feel vindicated that the USC trustees have finally responded to what has long been an intolerable situation.

Two points still concern me. The final recommendation is to come from a "task force," and one member of that group will be KUSC's president and general manager, Wallace A. Smith. To my mind, Smith, along with his wife, Bonnie Grice, the station's lead announcer, drove the change that was so disastrous for the station. Since they caused the problem, it makes no sense for them to be put in charge of rectifying it.

More troubling, the changes include what amount to two entirely new programs for Grice. Her announcing style seems driven by "political correctness" and a casual attitude to music history that cause me to question her qualifications on those grounds alone.

I feel both of these points are gross missteps that will not improve the station. Smith and Grice have worked steadily to tear down a format that had been admired by its listeners and replace it with one that has been abandoned by that same audience. If anything, they should take this opportunity to bow out gracefully and be replaced by an entirely new management team. Furthermore, I feel that the task force should conduct public hearings so that comments from the listeners can be heard and weighed.


Los Angeles

The news that KUSC-FM has reached the conclusion that it cannot compete with the commercial Top 40 and therefore is returning to its root audience for good music is most welcome. Unfortunately, in the interim of three or four years needed to reach this conclusion (which was obvious at the start!), L.A. has been denied this outlet for good music, but like the prodigal son returning home let us rejoice.

Although many of those who exercised this poor judgment seem to still be in charge, let us hope they have learned their lesson. As an example of excellent programming with excellent hosts, they just have to look across to the Valley to little KCSN-FM, the public radio station in Northridge. KCSN doesn't pretend to be something it is not. The choice of music is challenging and the hosts lively without trying to be hip. Nor do they treat the music as holy writ. They respect and enjoy what they are presenting without being worshipful and unctuous.

KKGO-FM does a fine job within the needs of a commercial station. In fact, it has shouldered the burden of bringing good music to Greater L.A. alone, since KUSC has been off somewhere else. I only hope that the rumored change to "shorter pieces" referred to in the article is not true. New York's WNCN learned the hard way that this route ultimately spells disaster, which in commercial radio means another rock 'n' roll outlet, so let's not roll over Beethoven!


Sherman Oaks

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