Document Type

Case Study

Publication Date



Tom Mara


Susan Kunimatsu


In the early 1990s, Seattle radio station KCMU was based at the University of Washington. A largely volunteer-run organization, it was known for its strong connection to its community through programming built around alternative music of the day, including such genres as new wave, jazz, grunge, and reggae. When in 1992, station management attempted to introduce syndicated programming, it opened a contentious rift in the KCMU community. DJs from the station banded together with dissatisfied listeners to form CURSE (Censorship Undermines Radio Station Ethics), an activist group opposed to the station’s new programming and policies. Why change a winning format, and why did KCMU’s listeners react so strongly? This case study seeks to examine how KCMU’s decision affected its community support, and how it set the stage for future decisions by the organization. In 2001, KCMU became KEXP, a free-standing non-profit organization that owes its success to, and prides itself on, its strong relationship with its community. How did the station recover and reinvent itself?

Organization or Event


Form of Entity


Area of Activity

Presenter, Broadcast Media, Community Development, Services for Artists

Artistic Discipline

Music, Other: Radio