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The University of Central Arkansas is shutting down its decades-old radio station, KUCA.

According to Robert Everding, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the move was made so the university could use its space and funding for new Internet-related programs.... He said he regrets that some jobs will be lost by closing the station.

"Shawn Smith is currently the director of KUCA. His position will no longer be needed and will end on June 30," Everding said. "A decision of this kind is difficult. Shawn has given good service to UCA over the past decade and I hate the fact that my decision will end his employment."

Smith said this is KUCA's 35th year on the air. The station officially began broadcasting in 1966. During the past six years, he said, the station has won 28 national awards, including production awards from the National Broadcasting Society, the International Radio and Television Society and other organizations.

He said he is proud the station beat out several schools known for their radio programs. Smith was also named 1999 Professional Broadcaster of the Year by the International Radio and Television Society.

Right now, due to cut backs, about five students work at the station, Smith said. However, he said about a year ago there were about 40 students working on two Internet-streamed stations that were run out of KUCA.

The Web-based stations shut down in 1999 when KUCA lost the Internet connection it was using. Smith said the original plan was to start them up again when KUCA moved into UCA's new telecommunications complex and received Internet service from Conway Corp.

"There is an area in the building that was designed to be a radio station," Smith said.

Everding said that streamed broadcasting will probably be part of the new Web-based curriculum the department is developing. He said the mass communications faculty is currently deciding what courses should be offered in the new curriculum.

Everding also said the space in the new complex will probably be used for Web-based instruction and television operations.

One problem Smith said KUCA faced in recent years was a loss of audience. About four years ago, Smith said, the station had thousands of listeners.

Then, Smith said, the station's transmitter broke down and KUCA was off the air for several months. That was followed by a directive to play classical music during the day. A total of 80 hours was added.

"The administration felt that we should be shifting to a different balance," Everding said.

Since then, Everding said, community support for the station has also been fading. "In 1999 only 14 people made donations to the station and gave a total of $421," Everding said. "In 2000 12 people made donations and gave a total of $460."

"We've just never been able to attract public financial support for that format," he said.

Smith said that other stations in the area already broadcast classical music, and classical music listeners tend to be loyal to those stations. But Smith said he thinks things were improving. "We were just starting to win back an audience," he said.

Everding agreed that much of KUCA's programming is duplicated by other stations in the area.

"There is a classical station from Little Rock that has served Conway for several years," Everding said. "KCON does UCA sports. KUCA does both."

Everding said KUCA's $143,000 budget will be redirected into the Web-based programs. He said the exact date KUCA goes off the air has not yet been decided, but could be earlier than June 30.

Smith said he regrets that students will not be able to have the experience of working in public radio.

"There is some loss to students not being able to gain this kind of experience," Smith said.

He also regrets not being able to serve the station's loyal local listeners. "I hope something can be done to serve that audience when KUCA goes off the air.