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My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(

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  • My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(



    Official Press Release: http://savektru.org/

    Not sure whether it's worth contacting the EFF about this...

    My old college radio station, KTRU 91.7FM Houston, just got (secretly) offered by the Rice University administration to University of Houston (UH), who just accepted the offer today (for $9.3M USD), on potentially unwarranted grounds. The station/staff just found out last night through rumors on a local news site, which just got corroborated today in (a fairly insincere) press release by the University president. I'm quite unhappy for a huuuge list of reasons, mostly because this is probably one of the few commercial-grade stations in the US that's not owned or operated by Clear Channel and plays whatever the hell it wants. Also, the station is how I learned to manage shows, DJs, and eventually start Glitch.FM. I worked with them for 6 years.

    The contents of the President's press release are as follows from an email sent out earlier today:

    Date: August 17, 2010

    To: Rice students

    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.

    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 our 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.

    The sale must be approved by the UH Board of Regents at its meeting today, and then by the Federal Communications Commission.

    We realize that some loyal fans of KTRU may lament these changes. 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.

    For more information about the KTRU plans, see the story and FAQs on rice.edu.

    I wish you great success in your studies this year.

    Warm regards,

    David W. Leebron

    President, Rice University
    Issues I have about this:
    - While not a legal issue, keeping such things secret from the students about an institution home-grown by students is pretty uncool...especially considering the president is pretty much violating his own "code" for the University that the board approved. See: http://burndownblog.wordpress.com/20...lates-the-v2c/ and his "vision" here: http://professor.rice.edu/professor/Vision.asp

    - I am confident that our listener count is not ****nearly**** as low as the President states. Stat tracking is done through a handful of volunteers through a company called Arbitron: http://www.arbitron.com/portable_people_meters/home.htm | http://www.engadget.com/2005/04/10/a...-people-meter/ - I've never known a single person to be carrying one of their pagers, yet know plenty of people who listen to the station. If you come to Houston, you'll see plenty of cars rocking our station stickers.

    - I'm under the impression that the talks were kept secret to prevent the station from being able to prepare an advance defense for the situation.

    - At our press conference today, it was rumored that the true value of the station is around $20Mil USD. This begs the question of why the University is eager to sell it at such a low price, especially if we're in a poor economic situation. By the way, Rice has one of the biggest endowments of any University (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...s_by_endowment - we're ranked about ~20th, with $3.5B USD). Not only that, it adds insult to injury that it was even mentioned that some of this money would be going to a campus cafeteria (which I assure you, we are not in need of)... and yet somehow it's also mentioned that layoffs are an issue at the beginning of his statement...

    - As such, I'm under the impression (and plenty of others), that the real reason for the station sale is that we're largely a Public-Relations liability for the school. The station is pretty much *the only* major Public outlet that's *not* controlled by the administration. (see: http://www.houstonpress.com/2001-01-...pin-control/1/ for a good historical perspective on this)

    - Legally, the issue is not so clear-cut for a variety of reasons that we're in the middle of researching. For one, the commercial-grade 50,000W transmitter was gifted to Rice for the students in a (probably complex) trade with another local station. We are fairly certain that it was not an asset purchased by the university, so there could be legal implications with the selling of donated gifts.

    From the historical report during the station's first shut-down by the administration in 2000: http://www.houstonpress.com/2001-01-...pin-control/1/
    The disjunction with the student body wasn't entirely KTRU's fault. In 1991 KTRU took a massive leap from 650 watts to 50,000 watts -- rare for a college station, and unheard of for one that was not run by professionals. KRTS 92.1, KTRU's neighbor on the FM band, wanted to up its power to 50,000 watts but couldn't, according to FCC regulations, because the increase would drown out the student station's broadcast. KRTS owner Mike Stude happened to be the adopted son of Brown and Root founder Herman Brown and vice president of the Brown Foundation, which contributes significantly to Rice. Stude offered to pay a reported $250,000 to increase KTRU's power as well. Rice administrators agreed, with little consultation with the students of KTRU, and a new transmitter was built north of town near Humble.
    A collection of articles/sites to read on the subject:
    http://savektru.org/
    http://culturemap.com/newsdetail/08-...ge-radio-deal/
    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/...dens_local.php
    http://houston.bizjournals.com/houst...6/daily13.html
    http://burndownblog.wordpress.com/20...lates-the-v2c/
    http://www.29-95.com/music/story/why-losing-ktru


    ** grumble grumble grumble grumble **
    | | |

  • #2
    Re: My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(

    Originally posted by greatscott View Post


    Official Press Release: http://savektru.org/

    Not sure whether it's worth contacting the EFF about this...

    My old college radio station, KTRU 91.7FM Houston, just got (secretly) offered by the Rice University administration to University of Houston (UH), who just accepted the offer today (for $9.3M USD), on potentially unwarranted grounds. The station/staff just found out last night through rumors on a local news site, which just got corroborated today in (a fairly insincere) press release by the University president. I'm quite unhappy for a huuuge list of reasons, mostly because this is probably one of the few commercial-grade stations in the US that's not owned or operated by Clear Channel and plays whatever the hell it wants. Also, the station is how I learned to manage shows, DJs, and eventually start Glitch.FM. I worked with them for 6 years.

    The contents of the President's press release are as follows from an email sent out earlier today:



    Issues I have about this:
    - While not a legal issue, keeping such things secret from the students about an institution home-grown by students is pretty uncool...especially considering the president is pretty much violating his own "code" for the University that the board approved. See: http://burndownblog.wordpress.com/20...lates-the-v2c/ and his "vision" here: http://professor.rice.edu/professor/Vision.asp

    - I am confident that our listener count is not ****nearly**** as low as the President states. Stat tracking is done through a handful of volunteers through a company called Arbitron: http://www.arbitron.com/portable_people_meters/home.htm | http://www.engadget.com/2005/04/10/a...-people-meter/ - I've never known a single person to be carrying one of their pagers, yet know plenty of people who listen to the station. If you come to Houston, you'll see plenty of cars rocking our station stickers.

    - I'm under the impression that the talks were kept secret to prevent the station from being able to prepare an advance defense for the situation.

    - At our press conference today, it was rumored that the true value of the station is around $20Mil USD. This begs the question of why the University is eager to sell it at such a low price, especially if we're in a poor economic situation. By the way, Rice has one of the biggest endowments of any University (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...s_by_endowment - we're ranked about ~20th, with $3.5B USD). Not only that, it adds insult to injury that it was even mentioned that some of this money would be going to a campus cafeteria (which I assure you, we are not in need of)... and yet somehow it's also mentioned that layoffs are an issue at the beginning of his statement...

    - As such, I'm under the impression (and plenty of others), that the real reason for the station sale is that we're largely a Public-Relations liability for the school. The station is pretty much *the only* major Public outlet that's *not* controlled by the administration. (see: http://www.houstonpress.com/2001-01-...pin-control/1/ for a good historical perspective on this)

    - Legally, the issue is not so clear-cut for a variety of reasons that we're in the middle of researching. For one, the commercial-grade 50,000W transmitter was gifted to Rice for the students in a (probably complex) trade with another local station. We are fairly certain that it was not an asset purchased by the university, so there could be legal implications with the selling of donated gifts.

    From the historical report during the station's first shut-down by the administration in 2000: http://www.houstonpress.com/2001-01-...pin-control/1/


    A collection of articles/sites to read on the subject:
    http://savektru.org/
    http://culturemap.com/newsdetail/08-...ge-radio-deal/
    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/...dens_local.php
    http://houston.bizjournals.com/houst...6/daily13.html
    http://burndownblog.wordpress.com/20...lates-the-v2c/
    http://www.29-95.com/music/story/why-losing-ktru


    ** grumble grumble grumble grumble **
    I'm wondering if the EFF would be able to make a lawsuit or perhaps even filing one yourself based on "selling of donated equipment".
    31 6E 66 33 63 37 33 64 20 62 79 20 74 68 33 20 70 68 31 6C 30 73 30 70 68 79 20 30 66 20 4A 30 68 6E 6E 79 20 4C 30 6E 67

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(

      There aren't a whole lot of opportunities to make money off of a educational band license (88-92 MHz). I doubt they will get their investment back.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(

        Find out who really owns that tower, Antenna Structure Registration/ FAA/ Part 17 wtb_towersiting@fcc.gov
        If the "students" of your school are mentioned in the contract agreement then you may have a little say in the matter. If your not mentioned in the contract then their is no way for any argument to proceed. As far as "gifts" it would still be University property. Their is no way Millions are going to be passed around without someone knowing about it. So dont think the school is sweeping this deal under the rug or getting something by anyone.
        Last edited by JMC31337; August 18, 2010, 21:26.
        Your Life Is Your Crime, It's Punishment Time

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: My College Radio Station Secretly (and Potentially Illegally) Put up for Sale >:(

          Originally posted by JMC31337 View Post
          Find out who really owns that tower, Antenna Structure Registration/ FAA/ Part 17 wtb_towersiting@fcc.gov
          If the "students" of your school are mentioned in the contract agreement then you may have a little say in the matter. If your not mentioned in the contract then their is no way for any argument to proceed. As far as "gifts" it would still be University property. Their is no way Millions are going to be passed around without someone knowing about it. So dont think the school is sweeping this deal under the rug or getting something by anyone.
          Thanks for the input! I've passed the information on to the research folks :)

          Concerning the statement:

          Their is no way Millions are going to be passed around without someone knowing about it. So dont think the school is sweeping this deal under the rug or getting something by anyone
          I agree that this was almost certainly looked into with great detail by the university's legal team. However, whether their rights to sell are air-tight are still debatable and unknown. There may still be holes that we can exploit, but finding them will require some significant research and legal help. If they exist, I'm sure the university legal team knows about it, but they may just be taking a calculated risk (especially with their sneaky positioning/timing of the sale) that a ragtag group of students and community volunteers won't be able to come up with an injunction in time to stop it.
          | | |

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