Last week I reported the news that Rice University was planning to sell the FM signal and broadcast tower for its college radio station KTRU to University of Houston. Since then I’ve spoken with KTRU’s Student Manager, who shared with me the fact that this news was released during Rice University’s summer break, making it difficult for students to initially organize and rally.
Despite the timing of this announcement, supporters of KTRU have made an impressive effort to save the station. Their Save KTRU Facebook page has more than 1500 fans, a rally at Rice University drew approximately 200 KTRU supporters, and Houston’s local Pacifica radio affiliate KPFT has even offered up an HD channel for KTRU in the hopes of ensuring that the station can somehow retain an over-the-air signal.
Those fighting for KTRU are still asking for help and have set up a new online petition which they are asking supporters (especially Rice University students, faculty and alumni) to sign. They are also seeking donations in order to help publicize their cause and obtain legal representation. KTRU alumni have chimed in with their thoughts on why college radio is so vital. Ray Shea’s piece on the Save KTRU website expresses the magic of college radio beautifully. Here’s an excerpt:
“KTRU was the driving force that would eventually propel me through six years and two college degrees. My best lifelong friends are all people I met at KTRU. And together we learned about music, about business, about media and promotions and organization and scheduling and budgeting. We learned how to deal with people, how to compromise and reach consensus. Sometimes we didn’t learn as well as we should have, but goddammit, we learned.
And somewhere in all that craziness, all those late nights drinking beer and listening to records and arguing about music, we accidentally participated in a movement. A movement that would permanently change the face of the music industry forever…
Somewhere out there, in the heads of a bunch of passionate music-minded middle schooler and high schooler and undergrad kids’ heads, is the next musical revolution. And KTRU can still be on the leading edge of this innovation and progress, but only if they are still around to do so.
My great fear is that if KTRU’s 91.7FM frequency and broadcasting tower are stolen out from under them, it will result in the eventual slow death of the station. For many reasons…an Internet-only radio station simply does not have the influence and resources necessary to survive as a self-perpetuating ecosystem. The loss of the frequency will essentially gut the station’s programming. And it breaks my heart that my two brilliant, talented, music-loving teenagers, both of whom up until last week were considering Rice as a possible college destination, may not get to experience what I experienced.”
I was also pleased to see that a number of people affiliated with University of Houston are also opposing the sale by showing up at rallies, organizing Facebook groups and speaking in favor of student radio at Rice University. A columnist at the University of Houston paper even pointed out that the arrival of a second radio station on campus won’t benefit students at either institution.
In an interesting twist, the folks at Save KTRU are reporting that fans of public radio and classical music (who have been happy to hear of University of Houston’s plans to expand the public radio network with this purchase) in Houston will actually be disappointed by the proposals on the table for the new all-classical station on KTRU’s current spot on the dial. Apparently the broadcast range for the new classical station will be much smaller than the existing classical station on KUHF. So who wins?