CPB Funds $1.3 Million Expansion of Public Radio Music Format for Young Audiences

Radio Milwaukee, WJSU, and Minnesota Public Radio to localize the Urban Alternative

September 14, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 14, 2021) – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) announced grants totaling $1.3 million for three public radio stations to implement the Urban Alternative format to connect with young, multicultural audiences. The grants to Radio Milwaukee, WJSU (Jackson, MS), and Minnesota Public Radio will support transitions to locally customized formats using local and national Hip Hop and R&B. Jacquie Gales Webb, CPB Vice President, Radio, announced the grants today at the virtual Public Radio Program Directors Conference.

CPB support for research and development in 2015 enabled Chicago Public Media to transform its Vocalo online music service into Chicago’s Urban Alternative. The research created a model format that borrows from the popularity of urban contemporary music while remaining true to public radio’s values, connecting urban audiences through music discovery and community engagement. With CPB support, the Urban Alternative format has been adopted by Rocky Mountain Public Media’s THE DROP in Denver, KTSU/The Vibe in Houston and WNSB/Blazin’ Hot 91 in Norfolk, VA.

“The Urban Alternative format has been built by and for a new generation of public radio listeners -- a younger, multicultural community that is creating its own public media sound,” said Kathy Merritt, CPB Senior Vice President of Radio, Journalism and CSG Services. “CPB is proud to support the expansion of this format, in which the stations are meeting the music and information needs of young, diverse audiences as trusted partners.”

Under the two-year grants:

  • Radio Milwaukee will provide an eclectic radio experience that serves all of Milwaukee’s constituents, celebrates the spectrum of Black music, provides opportunities for audiences to discover authentic DJs and local musicians and amplifies the power of community-centric public radio. Radio Milwaukee will use a multi-platform content strategy that includes some FM broadcast, a dedicated 24-hour digital channel and multiple streaming platforms, including smart speakers and the station’s website and mobile app.
  • WJSU, a public radio station licensed to Jackson State, a historically Black university in Jackson, Mississippi, will refresh its programming to reflect the changing interests of students and younger listeners, provide a path to long-term sustainability, and increase community collaborations and digital engagement. WJSU will also pursue a multi-platform strategy including some FM broadcast, a dedicated 24-hour digital channel and a mobile app.
  • Minnesota Public Radio will collaborate with KMOJ, a community-licensed public radio station that focuses on Minneapolis’ communities of color, to amplify the format’s reach, cultivate new talent, create engagement opportunities, and develop co-branded content to be shared across airwaves and digital platforms. MPR will launch the format across its streaming service, broadcast and HD2 channels, and smartphone App.
Urban Alternative
Minnesota Public Radio will work with KMOJ, a community-licensed public radio station, to develop the Urban Alternative public radio format in Minnesota. Photo by Tom Baker for MPR.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for other updates.

Categories: Grant, Radio