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KUOW Launches Jazz Service That Competes With KPLU's

KUOW is adding jazz to its offerings as jazz station KPLU tries to avoid being bought by KUOW.

Seattle's two NPR news stations will soon have competing music services as well.

News and information station KUOW 94.9 is launching an online and HD Radio service called Planet Jazz that will play jazz and blues around the clock.

KPLU 88.5 plays jazz and blues for most of the day on its main FM frequency and has its own around-the-clock jazz service called Jazz 24.

With his station in the midst of a fundraising drive aimed at preventing its takeover by KUOW, KPLU general manager Joey Cohn questioned the timing and necessity of a second local jazz service.

"I think it could potentially confuse people," Cohn said. "I think there's been so much conversation about duplication in this marketplace of news, and now we have duplication of jazz."

Cohn is leading his station's effort to raise $7 million to keep Pacific Lutheran University from selling KPLU to KUOW and the University of Washington, which holds KUOW's license.

The two universities announced the deal to sell KPLU and turn it into an all-jazz station run by KUOW in November. A month later, public backlash led UW president Ana Mari Cauce to step in. UW gave a community group six months to save KPLU.

If the community group fails to raise the money and sign a deal with Pacific Lutheran by June 30, the KPLU newsroom and brand would be eliminated.

Cohn said the fundraising effort is slightly ahead of schedule, having raised $3.7 million since January.

"In no way was this intended to derail the community funding effort," KUOW general manager Caryn Mathes said of the public launch of Planet Jazz, which has been in the works behind the scenes at KUOW for several months.

"This is an opportunity for us to pilot a service and get more community input about the service and be prepared in case we are fortunate enough to get the 88.5 frequency," Mathes said.

Planet Jazz is scheduled to launch April 18.

KUOW has hired an independent editor to oversee coverage of this story. 

Year started with KUOW: 2009