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Southern Oregon U., Jefferson Public Radio make peace

Southern Oregon University and the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation appear to have come to terms after a bitter feud. Southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune reports that the deal they’ve hammered out gives SOU “sole control” of 22 radio stations in the region. The University says that the agreement was reached in mediation sessions over the course of the last month, and resolves tensions sparked by JPR’s efforts to rescue a historic movie theater in Medford.

Holly Theater restoriation

A piece of the Holly Theater restoration project []

Among the provisions listed in SOU’s press release:

  • Southern Oregon University will be the licensee and operator of all of JPR’s public radio stations (currently SOU owns 15 stations and 32 translators and the JPR Foundation owns 7 stations).
  • The JPR Foundation will remain as a separate but affiliated non-profit entity associated with Southern Oregon University, with its primary role to support and raise funds for the radio network.
  • The JPR Foundation will establish a new limited liability corporation called Jefferson Live!, to restore Medford’s historic Holly Theatre  and manage the theatre once restoration is complete. Jefferson Live! will also manage the ongoing operation of Redding’s historic Cascade Theatre and other related projects.

JPR’s flagship radio station is KSOR, establish in 1969 in Ashland on the university campus. But the administration and Jefferson Public Radio almost came to lawsuits following a former JPR executive director’s efforts to restore the Holly Theater. JPR is “owned and operated by Southern Oregon University,” in the foundation’s own words. A university audit questioned the restoration project, worrying about its fiscal impact. The new corporation, Jefferson Live!, is presumably designed to separate radio station oversight from theater saving.

Apparently the deal also sets up a system for selling off some of these stations. The Mail Tribune summarizes JPR Foundation President Steve Nelson’s perspective on this prospect: “station licenses would be sold only if it was determined that they didn’t adequately serve the overall needs of the radio station,” although “no particular license has been identified that could be sold yet.”

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