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Letter Writing Campaign to Protest Sale of KTRU Begins while New Details about Secret Dealings Emerge

KTRU Letter Writing Campaign Begins

As we reported earlier this month, paperwork has been submitted to the FCC in reference to the sale of Rice University radio station KTRU to University of Houston. Fans of the student radio station have expressed concern and outrage ever since rumors of the sale first came to light and have mounted an impressive effort to block the deal to turn their college radio station into another University of Houston public radio outpost.

Groups like Save KTRU and Friends of KTRU have helped to galvanize students, alumni, and listeners to the cause and are encouraging people to write letters to Congress and the FCC during the 30-day comment window provided by the FCC. The deadline for submitting comments is December 2 and the Save KTRU website has specific details on how to contact the FCC and Congress, as well as suggested content for those letters. They are encouraging people in the Houston area in the listening range of KTRU to contact the FCC directly regarding concerns about the sale. Supporters outside of KTRU’s FM listening area should send letters to by November 29th. Friends of KTRU will then collect and forward those letters to the FCC.

As if this sale wasn’t controversial enough already, in the past few weeks the plot has thickened, as both Keeping Radio Public and Texas Watchdog have revealed details about how the administration of Rice pursued the sale of the station while keeping these dealings hidden from KTRU staff members. This week the Texas Watchdog shared the contents of various communications that took place during the period when Rice was courting University of Houston. According to Texas Watchdog:

“On May 3, with the public  still unaware of the pending sale, [the director of acquisitions at Public Radio Capital, Erik] Langner suggested officials lie to KTRU staff about the reason for a visit and assessment of assets from a consulting engineer, which the  University of Houston and its consultant needed to develop a business plan. Fearful of tipping off KTRU staff as to a pending sale, Langner e-mailed a strategy to Greg Guy at Patrick Communications, a  Maryland brokerage which represented Rice in the deal:

‘We recognize that Rice is  going to have a hard time generating a complete list of assets without  some of the station personnel’s input, and we agree that tipping off  some of those individuals may not be advisable. … We request that Rice  provide a cover story for an independent 3rd party engineering consultant, to be chosen by UH, to perform an inspection of  the transmitter building, transmitter equipment, transmission line,  tower and antennae. Rice should actually hire the consultant we specify, so there will be no question as to the source of the inspection, which  of course will have to be coordinated with the station engineer somehow. Rice can use any reason it chooses, some of which can include change of  insurance, inventory needs, or any other plausible explanation. UH will  reimburse Rice for the cost of the inspection.’

The communication records  suggest a pattern of secrecy and bolster previous suspicions that the  university circumvented public records laws in its effort to get the  deal passed, said Joe Larsen, a  Houston lawyer and a board member of the Freedom of  Information Foundation of Texas. ‘These add to the speculation that they tried to mislead,’ Larsen said. When news of the sale broke in August, Larsen said the UH may have violated the open  meetings act because it did not name KTRU as the station in question in Board of Regents agendas to consider the sale.”

The article also outlines some of the ways that the identity of the station that University of Houston was hoping to purchase was kept out of various documents in order to keep the negotiations under wraps. It quotes Public Radio Capital’s Erik Langner as saying:

”’When a city is going to go  into a neighborhood and buy some homes that are in disrepair and fix  them, it doesn’t announce that ahead of buying the homes,’ Langner said.  ‘Otherwise, the price of the homes go too high and nothing gets fixed.'”

Ouch. I’m sure the folks at KTRU were not pleased to see that their long-time independent college radio station was compared to dilapidated homes being taken over by a city government. It’s an interesting spin on the sale, as I’m sure University of Houston wants the FCC to believe that they are operating in the public interest.

So, if you are a fan of preserving independent college radio at Rice University; here are some of the steps that you can take (specific details on each can be found here).

1) Write an email directly to the FCC if you live in the broadcast range of KTRU

2) Email a letter of support to Friends of KTRU if you are outside KTRU’s broadcast range

3) Sign KTRU’s online letter of support (which will also be sent to the FCC)

4) Contact your representatives in Congress

5) Tell your friends. If you support independent radio and college radio, it’s just good form to take a few minutes to share the plight of KTRU with like-minded folks.


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One Response to Letter Writing Campaign to Protest Sale of KTRU Begins while New Details about Secret Dealings Emerge

  1. not buying it November 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    If Langer is trying to use an eminent domain analogy, then he should be informed that a public entity has a higher level of disclosure than a private entity when making the same acquisition. The quote from Langer reinforces the perception that something underhanded has occurred.

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