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KUER radio is tuning out 40 years of classical music

Roll over, Beethoven. Tell Tchaikovsky it's news.

KUER (FM-90.1), which has played classical music for 40 years, announced today that it will adopt a news and information daytime format starting Monday, March 19. The station is sending out letters to all its members and underwriters explaining the change.

"It was the most difficult decision I've had to make in 20 years of public broadcasting," said John Greene, KUER's general manager.

The station will likely receive complaints from its die-hard classical listeners. In 1998, when KUER yanked classical music off the weekend programming, the station received 200 calls.

"Public radio listening is a very personal thing," said Greene. "So when we change something we expect people to be upset."

But the reality of 21st century radio, explained Greene, is that radio is increasingly geared to "niche markets," whether it's hip-hop or news or Christian rock. "The media world has changed dramatically over the 40 years that KUER has been on the air and especially in the past decade," Greene said. "Radio listeners have more choices available to them than ever before. People will listen to what has the greatest appeal to them."

It was a burden, Greene said, to try to have a "three-headed format" of news, classical music and jazz, and the station had to decide which of those things it did best during the daytime hours (it will continue to play jazz in the late evening). The station brought in an outside public radio expert to help make the decision, he said.

The station's daytime offerings will now include the Diane Rehm Show (interviews about national and international affairs and politics) from 9 to 11 a.m.; the Connection (politics and the arts) from 11 a.m. to noon; Talk of the Nation (current affairs call-in) from noon to 2 p.m.; and Fresh Air (arts interviews) from 2 to 3 p.m.