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KTRU Supporters Make Another Appeal to the FCC to Save College Radio at Rice University

With the FCC’s 30-day comment window now closed, the decision on whether or not to grant University of Houston its request to purchase Rice University’s student radio station KTRU is in the hands of the FCC. The group Friends of KTRU submitted an extensive “Petition to Deny” to the FCC on December 7, outlining all of the reasons why the sale of the Rice University station was not in the public interest to the residents of Houston or to students of Rice University.

On December 13, both University of Houston and Rice University sent in letters of opposition to the FCC in response to Friends of KTRU’s “Petition to Deny.” Today, Friends of KTRU fought back with a reply to the FCC that enumerates all of the reasons why the stated oppositions by Rice and University of Houston do not address the negative impact of the station sale on the public interest and on the educational intent of the FCC license at issue.

In today’s “Reply to Oppositions” (PDF), Friends of KTRU blast both Rice University and University of Houston for misreading the intent of their petition to deny. In a press release, Friends of KTRU states that,

“‘The claims of Rice University and the University of Houston System miss the underlying points of the Petition to Deny,’ said Joey Yang, KTRU station manager. ‘They failed to address two of our major points: that the license transfer undermines the educational purpose of the FM license, and that elimination of KTRU-FM will harm the FCC’s commitment to localism. We call on the FCC to recognize these and the many other salient points in our Petition to Deny. The future of Houston radio depends on it.'”

According to today’s “Reply to Oppositions” letter, “The Oppositions rely on a single flawed premise: that the assignment application…represents a mere format change…” The letter goes on to explain that by selling KTRU to University of Houston, a changed format change is not the main issue; rather that depriving students of the opportunity to run their own radio station is distressing. According to the letter,

“…Rice continues by demeaning its own students’ educational experiences at KTRU, calling the student-run operations broadcasting over the KTRU License nothing more ‘than an extracurricular activity,’ while noting that UHS [University of Houston System] has a broadcast journalism major that will better prepare students for a career in professional broadcasting. The students who have single-handedly run KTRU since its inception would surely disagree with that assertion, particularly those UHS [University of Houston System] students who were unable to obtain hands-on experience at KUHF [the University of Houston radio station] and found opportunity and open doors at KTRU to gain practical broadcasting experience.”

They go on to explain that the sale of KTRU would be detrimental because it “does not truly serve the educational public interest.” I was also pleased to see that in their letter, Friends of KTRU mentions the growing trend of universities selling off their student radio stations in order to make a profit and seeks the Commission’s assistance in addressing this trend before more educational radio stations are lost. They also point out how sad it is that Rice University, in its letter of opposition, suggests that prospective students seeking broadcast experiences should apply to other institutions.

Additionally, the letter makes the point that if the FCC approves the sale of KTRU to University of Houston, the resulting public radio station will not have as strong a commitment to localism as the current student-run KTRU. The plan is for the University of Houston-run station to air mostly syndicated national and international programming and according to the letter written by Friends of KTRU, “UHS’ Application reveals not one additional program to be added to its stations that is specific to the local Houston area.”

I continue to be incredibly impressed by the persistence of KTRU supporters and am hopeful that their efforts will pay off. I also hope that other college radio stations facing similar crises will take a close look at the discourse in this case, as Friends of KTRU has done an amazing job of collecting arguments in favor of the ongoing relevance of terrestrial student radio stations.

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5 Responses to KTRU Supporters Make Another Appeal to the FCC to Save College Radio at Rice University

  1. Shem December 21, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    Once again, the KTRU supporters don’t have a leg to stand on. Is UH capable of holding a license? Yes, they already have proved that with KUHF. Will the station air local content? Yes, local news and information, in addition to other programming. Will the station be owned locally? Yes, UH is a local university. The rest of the points are moot. The FCC does not get involved in format changes nor are the students being “deprived” of an educational opportunity. They can learn the same skills in a classroom lab, as well as an internet station. It’s time to stop the whining and get on with it.

  2. another brick in the wall December 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Students got pushed aside at UH’s radio station years ago, they are just used for a minimum necessary token presence. UH maintains a college radio station in name only, in practice it is a franchisee of a major media conglomerate known as NPR.

  3. Jennifer Waits December 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    And, as everyone knows, once a college radio station becomes professionally-run (aka becomes a public radio affiliate), student participation typically becomes a thing of the past.

    That’s my whole beef with college stations selling off to public radio and religious radio conglomerates: the stations are no longer independent, student enterprises and just add to the increasing consolidation of the radio dial.

  4. Mark Jeffries December 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    And just what is it you hate about professionalism, Jennifer, and love about dead air, miscued records, weird music and mumbling DJs (except, of course, to scream “LONG LIVE THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND THE RAILROAD OF BOB AVAKIAN!” every hour while a punk rock version of “The Internationale” plays)?

  5. Jennifer Waits December 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    I don’t hate professionalism, I hate the fact that the students at Rice University are losing their student station, which has been on the air for 40+ years. It’s an amazing experience to be able to DJ at a college radio station and I’m saddened that future generations of Rice students will miss out on that opportunity and that Houston will be losing an independently-run, locally-focused radio station.

    Student radio stations are diverse and I wouldn’t ever say that as a whole they are characterized by a lack of professionalism. That’s a huge disservice to the volunteers who run these stations. Sure you might catch dead air on some shows, of course some of the DJs make mistakes, but there are plenty who are talented and inspiring.

    “Weird” music is in the ears of the beholder and I would imagine that any radio station on the air, be it commercial or non-commercial plays something that someone somewhere would call “weird.” And that’s the beauty of radio, that it has the potential to serve all kinds of listeners who crave all kinds of sounds.

    I think there is room on the radio dial for a number of different kinds of non-commercial radio stations and I personally have an affinity for college radio. I’ve learned a ton about all kinds of music from college radio, ranging from 1960s folk to 1980s Swedish girl punk to modern classical to word jazz to international sounds of all genres to country to long-lost blues music from the 1920s to free jazz to soundtrack music. College stations are also some of the few stations around that air radio drama, something that is nearly absent from radio these days. And many of the DJs who you’ll hear on excellent college radio stations like KFJC, WNUR, WZBC, etc. have been on the air for decades, put a ton of work and research into their shows and sound just as professional as anyone you might catch on a commercial station.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with a big-budget professionally-run radio station; nor is there anything inherently wrong with a college radio station run by students. They are just different animals.

    But, I would love to hear what college station you’re listening to (with DJs screaming about the proletariat) as it sounds fascinating!

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