The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has awarded grants totaling $1.3 million to a trio of public media music radio stations to develop the urban alternative format, to serve and attract a young, multicultural audience.

The grants were presented to Milwaukee Board of School Directors adult alternative “88Nine Radio Milwaukee” WYMS; Jackson State University jazz WJSU Jackson, MS (88.5), and Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Current” KCMP Minneapolis, which will collaborate with Center for Communication & Development hip-hop/R&B KMOJ Minneapolis (89.9).

Jacquie Gales Webb, CPB VP of Radio, announced the grants today at the virtual Public Radio Program Directors Conference.

With CPB’s support, Chicago Public Media transformed its Vocalo online music service into “Chicago’s Urban Alternative” in 2015. The research created a model format that borrows from the popularity of hip-hop/R&B music while remaining true to public radio’s values, connecting audiences through music discovery and community engagement.

The urban alternative format has been adopted by Rocky Mountain Public Media jazz KUVO Denver (89.3), with the creation of the digital station “The Drop 303.” Texas Southern University jazz KTSU Houston (90.9) and Norfolk State University adult R&B WNSB Norfolk (91.1) have also implemented channels of programming for the emerging format.

“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,” Kathy Merritt, CPB Senior VP of Radio, Journalism and CSG Services said in a release. “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.”

Milwaukee Board of School Directors will offer the format via a multi-platform content strategy plan 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.

“Radio Milwaukee is thrilled to bring the Urban Alternative public radio format to Milwaukee,” Executive Director Kevin Sucher said in a separate release. “We are excited to be part of this national effort to elevate Black voices and celebrate Milwaukee’s unique culture. Through this new platform, Radio Milwaukee will amplify untold stories, champion homegrown talent, and create a space for celebration and creativity.”

WJSU plans to refresh its programming to reflect the changing interests of students and younger listeners. The station will also pursue a multi-platform strategy to introduce the urban alternative format, including some FM broadcast, a dedicated 24-hour digital channel and a mobile app.

Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Current” KCMP will work with KMOJ 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 urban alternative format across its streaming service, broadcast and HD2 channels and app.

“We’re pleased to be part of this movement in public media to better connect with the younger generation of listeners and to provide a platform that engages them with their local music scene,” Duchesne Drew, President of Minnesota Public Radio said in a company release.