For the last couple months Rice University and University of Houston have been engaged in private negotiations over the purchase of KTRU-Houston, 91.7fm. The news broke publicly in the afternoon on 8/16 on Houston Press’s blog and the Houston Chronicle. On Tuesday morning, 8/17, Rice University issued a press release on their site detailing the plan for the sale and shutdown of terrestrial KTRU in order to convert it to an internet only station. At the same time, Rice University President David Leebron sent an email to ALL-RICE explaining the sale and why no stakeholders were involved in the decision making process.
This is a polarizing situation, with both sides having firm ground to stand on regarding the sale. On one hand, an around the clock NPR and news station would be a valuable add for the Houston area. On the other hand, the loss of a nationally important radio station providing a home for independent and eclectic music would be a tragedy not only for the Houston community but for college and independent radio on the whole.
I will compose my own personal thoughts about this sale in the coming days as I work through unproductive feelings and towards unbiased reflection. For now what I can say is that KTRU has played a formative role in my musical education and I have grown richer as a music fan through my ten years of DJing at KTRU.
I will keep this post updated with as much relevant information as possible concerning the sale of the station as well as resources for people to read more or get involved.
Updated 8/18, 6:00AM
Culture Map: The winners and losers in the KTRU college radio deal
Culture Map: Save KTRU? Rice alums react with anger & resignation: President says secrecy unavoidable in radio deal
Houston Chronicle: UH deal finding no fans at KTRU
Houston Press: KTRU Staff, Supporters Vent, Discuss Plans To Fight Station’s Sale
Houston Press: KTRU News Roils, Saddens Local Music Community
KUHF: UH Regents to Vote on Radio Station Purchase
Updated 8/17, 3:00PM
Houston Chronicle: UH board considers plan to buy Rice radio station
Houston Press 1st post: KTRU: Is U Of H About To Buy Rice Student Station?
Houston Press: KTRU: U Of H Regents Approve Purchase Of Rice Station
29-95: Sadness Alert: KTRU Sale Finalized
RICE PUBLIC MENTIONS
President Leebron’s letter to ALL-RICE (posted at end)
Rice University press release about the sale: UH to buy radio frequency and transmission facilities from Rice
CALLS TO ACTION
If the sale of KTRU to KUHF is something that you are unhappy with, here are some things that you can do to express your displeasure. I will add additional items as they develop.
- Use your social networks to express your concern about there being a home for independent culture and music in Houston.
- You could write emails to Rice University President David Leebron, Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby, University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khatur, and any other decision makers you have contacts with at either Rice University, University of Houston, or KUHF. As Rice is one of my current employers I will not publicly post these people’s emails but they can be easily obtained from rice.edu or uh.edu.
- Attend a 7pm public meeting with all KTRU DJs tonight at Sammy’s on Rice University campus in the Rice Memorial Center. Map here. All public and press are invited for this event.
From: David Leebron
To: Rice colleagues
I am writing to let you know that we have reached a preliminary agreement with the University of Houston System to purchase Rice’s 50,000-watt radio frequency and broadcast tower for use by Houston’s local public broadcasting station, KUHF. Rice’s station, KTRU, will continue to operate a Web-based radio station at www.ktru.org.
We made the decision to sell the radio tower and frequency for several reasons. The economic downturn which began two years ago has forced Rice — and virtually all colleges and universities across the country — to make hard choices to prioritize spending and maximize the use of our resources. As we have implemented necessary budget cuts over the past two years, our goal has been to focus on our core missions of teaching and research and, to the extent possible, to avoid layoffs. We have constantly asked, and will continue to ask, how we can best apply our resources to achieve our aspirations.
The KTRU tower stood out as one of the university’s most underutilized resources. In an era when Internet radio is rapidly growing in popularity, it became apparent that the 50,000-watt radio station that broadcasts KTRU’s programming is a valuable but vastly underutilized resource that is not essential to providing our students the wide range of opportunities they need, including media opportunities.
A recent Arbitron report showed that KTRU’s audience was so small that it did not even register in the ratings. Most college radio stations around the country have less than 5,000 watts, and since the late ’90s a number of them have added the online format and moved to online only.
At the same time, KUHF, Houston’s National Public Radio station, was looking for a way to provide both 24-hour all-news and all-classical music programming. Houston is the only major city in the country that lacks these dual services. To fill that gap, the University of Houston System expressed an interest in purchasing Rice’s FM frequency and tower, and we eventually agreed on a price of $9.5 million.
The sale must be approved by the UH Board of Regents at its meeting today, and then by the Federal Communications Commission.
Some of the sale proceeds will go toward the cost of the new East Servery, which will be adjacent to Lovett and Will Rice residential colleges on the south campus. This will both provide one of the most desired improvements to the residential experience in the south colleges, as well as help us achieve the overall capital plan approved by our board of trustees. We also plan to form a committee including students to provide input on other uses of the proceeds, such as for scholarships, improvements to recreational facilities and enhancements to the online station and other student media facilities and programs.
KTRU will continue to serve its campus and external audience with student-managed programming via www.ktru.org. The Internet already brings KTRU to national and global listeners, and there are opportunities for that audience to grow. Will Robedee, the station’s first general manager, will continue in that role.
KUHF plans to use the additional frequency to broadcast 24-hour classical music and fine arts programming on 91.7 FM; 88.7 FM will become its all-news channel. KUHF will raise funds to pay for the acquisition.
We realize that some loyal fans of KTRU may lament these changes, but it is important to remember that KTRU is not going away. Fans can still find KTRU’s unique blend of music and programming online. Meanwhile, a greater number of students can benefit from the improvements in campus facilities and offerings made possible by the sale of the broadcast tower.
As much as I prefer to consult widely and involve all stakeholders in important decisions, this sale required months of complicated and, by necessity, confidential negotiations. My management team and I approached those discussions always with the best interests of our students, faculty and alumni and the future of our university as our highest priorities.
For more information about the KTRU plans, see the story and FAQs on rice.edu.
Thank you, as always, for your hard work and dedication.
David W. Leebron
President, Rice University