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Lehigh Carbon Community College Files Paperwork to Sell WXLV FM License to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting

WXLVBack in 2011, we reported that Lehigh Carbon Community College station WXLV 90.3 FM in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania was rumored to be up for sale. Fans of the college radio station held rallies, crafted a petition, and formed a Facebook group in order to voice concerns about the sale. However, a year and a half later, paperwork has been filed with the FCC to assign the WXLV FM license to religious broadcaster Four Rivers Community Broadcasting for a purchase price of $705,000.

According to the FCC filing this week, Four Rivers is asking for a waiver of the main studio rule in order to utilize the WXLV frequency as a “satellite” of the Four Rivers-owned station WBYO (licensed to Sellersville, Pennsylvania). WBYO, the main station in Four Rivers’ network of 16 religious stations in Pennsylvania, has its studio located in Souderton, 32 miles away from WXLV’s city of license. The primary format for those stations is contemporary Christian music under the Word FM brand, whose broadcasts can be heard on 10 main stations and 9 translator stations.

When reports of the potential WXLV sale first circulated in the media in May, 2011, students expressed displeasure over the possibility that the freeform station could be sold to a religious or public radio entity. An article in The Morning Call mentioned efforts by both a station DJ and WXLV’s former General Manager/Program Director Burr Beard (who also had a short stint at college radio station WTJU) to retain the station as a local broadcaster. Beard’s plan would have meant that the station would switch formats to an Americana music station, whereas DJ John Troxell hoped to maintain the station’s current eclectic format. According to the article,

“As the college looks to offset a $1.3 million reduction in state funding it’s considering selling the radio station. The school has had the radio station’s license appraised but has yet to move forward with a sale, said Heather Kuhns, LCCC’s associate dean of institutional advancement.

[WXLV DJ John] Troxell…is hoping to stop the administration in its tracks…Troxell understands the budget problems the school faces, but he simply wants students’ voices to be heard and to work with the school to find an alternative solution…

The station’s former director, Burr Beard, said he’s made a pitch to buy the station but doesn’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to buy the radio license. Beard wants to lease the station for a year and then possibly buy it with help from Public Radio Capital, a national financial backer in Denver. LCCC isn’t working with any specific buyer, Kuhns said, and will not disclose the appraised value of the station’s license. Beard fears the college could get a generous offer from a national station. He sees his offer as a way to keep students involved and provide local programming to the community.”

Based on the FCC filing this week, it would appear that both Troxell and Beard were unsuccessful in their attempts to maintain a terrestrial student radio station on campus. However, it’s interesting to note that Beard’s proposed partner (Public Radio Capital) was hired by Lehigh Carbon Community College as a broker and advisor in order to help explore a station sale in spring 2011.

Public efforts to save WXLV seem to have halted by the end of 2011, with a petition to save WXLV garnering its most recent signature (number 1261) in September, 2011. Additionally, my own efforts to get updates from members of the Save WXLV Facebook group elicited little information following the flurry of activities in Spring 2011.

Although not much has been publicized about the status of WXLV, Lehigh Carbon Community College has been considering various options for the radio station since at least early 2011. The college board’s finance and insurance committee broached the subject at its March 21, 2011 meeting meeting when College President Donald Snyder brought up a “new business” item and, “discussed plans of the College to review the role of the College Radio Station and the Early Learning Center at the College.” Meeting minutes state that,”The College will have the Radio Station appraised.” At the finance committee meeting the following month, it was reported that,

“Mr. Snyder…discussed the selling the rights of the Radio Station license. The value of the license was appraised and the College will look into hiring a broker to solicit buyers. The Committee approved moving forward…The fiscal year 2010-11 projection is that the College will fund… the Radio Station approximately $100,000.”

By June 2011, the college’s board of trustees approved a resolution to appoint Public Radio Capital as a broker and advisor in order to “identify potential buyers for the radio station license.” Board meeting minutes state that the school would retain the station call letters and would maintain a digital recording studio and internet-only station. It’s possible that in the intervening months there was an exploration of lease agreements for the station (an idea which was mentioned by Burr Beard in press accounts), however, by the end of 2011, the option of leasing the station’s airwaves was off the table. Minutes from a board building and site committee meeting from December, 2011 state,

“The Committee discussed new issues that would make a management agreement an unattractive option for the College. The issues arose after the College consulted with their radio license attorney. The Committee agreed not to move the resolution forward for a vote by the full board. The College then presented the most recent purchase option from a potential buyer. The Committee requested the College research what assets could be available that the potential buyer could collateralize for payments made over several years.”

Throughout 2012 the board seemed to be evaluating various offers to purchase the station’s license. According to board meeting minutes from January 5, 2012, by unanimous vote (14-0), the board agreed to authorize the administration “to enter into a non-binding Letter of Intent with an unnamed potential buyer of the Radio Station.”

Following that meeting, a “letter of intention” for the sale of the radio station was “reviewed and discussed” in February, 2012. Minutes from the May 21, 2012 meeting of the community college board’s finance and insurance committee state that the committee recommended a resolution to “appoint Patrick Communications as the College broker and advisor for the sale of the College radio station license to a non-public organization. Patrick Communications will be marketing the station license to only non-public organizations, while Public Radio Capital will continue to market to public radio organizations.” This resolution was approved by the board in June, 2012. Soon after, it became clear that several “non-public” radio stations were expressing interest in the WXLV license. Minutes from  a July 16, 2012 meeting state, “…the Board of a non-public radio station was meeting this evening regarding the purchase of the College radio license” and minutes from an August 20, 2012 committee meeting state that, “two non-public radio station[s] [were] expressing interest in the College radio license.”

Following all of these offers and negotiations, the board finally made the decision to sell the license in September, 2012. At the September 6, 2012 meeting of the Lehigh Carbon Community College Board of Trustees, a resolution was passed by a unanimous vote of 9-0 authorizing the school to “enter into a nonbinding Letter of Intent with Four Rivers Community Broadcasting Corporation of Sellersville, PA for the purchase of the College’s 90.3-FM license.” Paperwork was filed with the FCC regarding this sale and was accepted for filing by the FCC on December 3, 2012.

As of yet, there’s no word from the college or from WXLV volunteers and staff regarding what this news means for the future of student radio at Lehigh Carbon Community College.

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