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College Radio Watch: University of Evansville to Sell WUEV License and More News

I’m saddened, but not surprised to hear that University of Evansville has announced plans to sell the 91.5 FM license for college radio station WUEV-FM in Evansville, Indiana to a religious broadcasting group. Once a station that I held up as an inspiring example of how to fight an impending license sale, WUEV is in a much different situation in 2019 than it was in 2006 when students, alumni and faculty rallied to keep FM radio on campus. In 2011, when I reported on WUEV’s efforts, things seemed to be going well at the station. However, in May 2018, rumors were circulating that WUEV could be up for sale again.

In fall, 2018, students and WUEV supporters continued to protest and petition the school in hopes of preventing a license sale. A “Fight for WUEV” rally was held on campus in October and University of Evansville officials released statements to the effect that they were in talks with potential buyers. It became clear to me that things were not looking good for the future of FM at WUEV when I read the statement that:

The idea to consider a sale of the radio station based on the future of communications is not a new one. In 2005, a sale was explored and after much consideration, we decided to retain the radio station. Now, 13 years later, we are once again examining the relevancy of the medium and exploring opportunities to enhance our curriculum through providing additional experience in 21st century communications methods.

Our live podcast recording at the College Broadcasters Inc. convention in October, 2018 came on the heels of this statement from WUEV, which led to a spirited conversation with college radio participants and advisers about the role of terrestrial college radio today. They also shared advice and tips on how to stay relevant on campus and hopefully prevent a license sale.

Flashing forward to 2019, Courier & Press notes that:

An email from UE’s Office of University Relations says the frequency is being sold to WAY-FM, a nonprofit nationwide network that plays contemporary Christian music. WAY is based in Colorado Springs. UE students interested in broadcasting will still have opportunities to hone their craft, according to the email. The message was sent to the campus community.

The article further states that, “UE’s announcement confirming the sale was not posted on the university’s official social media pages, and it was made two weeks after the campus emptied for the summer following graduation ceremonies.” As we’ve seen with other proposed license sales, they are often announced during winter and summer breaks, making it more difficult for students to organize or protest and also giving the public the sense that a pending sale is already a done deal.

Broker Greg Guy of Patrick Communications worked out the deal on behalf of University of Evansville, according to Radio Ink. Guy has been involved with some high profile college radio station sales over the years, including University of San Francisco’s KUSF and Rice University’s KTRU. During an FCC inquiry into the KUSF deal, communications with Guy were released that specifically addressed the PR aspects of station sales and his firm’s experience managing these types of announcements.

Paperwork for the deal has yet to appear in the FCC database, so details about the purchase price are not available. The license sale still requires FCC approval, so those opposed to the sale will have an opportunity to voice their opinions after license assignment documents are on file with the FCC.

Former student DJ at WUEV and University of Evansville alumnus Tom Fischer reached out to me, sharing his displeasure with the news of the impending sale. According to Fischer:

The vast majority of professors, students, alumni and community I speak with are in favor of keeping 91.5 FM WUEV for the students, as it always has been. Since the announcement of the preliminary plans to sell WUEV, I’ve met with University of Evansville administrative leaders and myself and all the supporters have remained positive, respectful and open to finding ways to make something great work for all parties. Unfortunately, I don’t think they understand the consequences of what they are doing by attempting to sell WUEV. Those were my dollars, student’s dollars from the University of Evansville tuition, and all of our hard work and passion that have built WUEV over the years. The idea of seeing what belongs to the students sold off by an administration that has only been in power there for a few years and who probably won’t be there 10 years from now is a crucial reason to join the students now in their fight to keep the station.”

Current student DJ Zach Barnett adds, “Myself and other students are disappointed that the University didn’t listen and refused to meet with us, turning a deaf ear and operating in what felt like secrecy. We will continue to raise objections when the comment period to the FCC starts.”

Those who plan to fight the sale are directing WUEV supporters to their Save WUEV advocacy page at TheCollegeRadio.com and are encouraging people to continue to sign an online petition against the sale

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