Campus Battles

Tom Taylor’s newsletter carried the following entry about the battle for the soul of college radio:

Protests about college-owned stations break out in Houston and Gainesville.

The Houston situation is the $9.5 million sale of Rice University-owned KTRU (91.7) to the University of Houston. Rice students have long enjoyed the open-door-programming policy at variety-formatted KTRU, but that will change when the University of Houston takes over and re-makes 91.7 into a classical and fine-arts station. There’s a “Save KTRU” group and website (here) and yesterday it announced that it’s retained the Paul Hastings law firm to fight the sale. KTRU station manager Joey Yang says “it is shameful that the Rice University administration has not heeded the thousands of voices asking to stop the sale.” This is one case where the school (Rice) isn’t pleading poverty. It just got an offer it couldn’t refuse. The second college protest is in Gainesville, Florida. WRUF-FM (103.7) alumnus Alex James says “with the impending flip [of Rock 104 to country], a couple of station alumni and I have put together a Facebook page to show support for the long-time rock format, the artist and listener community it serves, and the unique educational opportunity it has provided UF students, like myself, through its 28-year existence.” Alex, a former PD in Sarasota (WYNF) and in New Hampshire (WHEB, WGIR, WMLL), says “in just over two days, ‘Keep Rock 104 A Rock Station’ has already passed 1,000 ‘likes.’” Alex says he’s no longer in radio, but he remains passionate about Rock 104. The reptilian flip to “Gator 103.7” is due on Monday.

The Facebook site for protesters at Rice (here) and Vanderbilt (here) are booming: The Rice site boasts more than 2,500 members and Vanderbilt’s kicking it at 4,700. In Gainesville, where the University of Florida’s student rock station, WRUF, a 100,000-watt monster, was flipped to cowboy-western — in a city where the top two stations already play chuckwagon fare — the initial Arbitron numbers (flaky though they may be) show a decline (here).

The WRUF Facebook site, here, is now past 3,000, and its postings include some vitriolic stuff about the switch. When one post noted that the “new” station had announced that “the students voted for the change in format . . . I wonder how true that is,” these remarks followed:

If they are saying the students voted for it, that is complete bullshit. The students were “informed” just 2 days before the change, and, even then, only because the story broke on and then in the Gainesville Sun.

I’m a UF Student and I was NEVER informed. We didn’t vote at all.

There is no “democracy on the dial” without The ROCK Station! An online stream will never launch because Democracy in this Dystopian Fiction of Randy Wrong’s Vision of what we want is as flawed as the research put into this whole mess. There are no plans to bring Rock back, only to pacify our desires for blood with smoke and mirrors.

Let me make this real clear. For those of you, who are hoping for Rock 104 to return online, it will not happen! There are no plans, whatsoever, to launch the online stream. The Telecommunications department at UF has slashed its budget, which caused the demise of Rock 104. The online stream is not cost effective and will not generate enough revenue to make it viable.

The manner in which this whole charade was foisted off on Gainesville and the UF students was all too familiar: the mealy-mouthed mumblings of bean counters justifying their actions with whatever excuse du jour occurred at the time. Or became necessary after the last bumble was busted.

College radio plays a large part in the greater struggle for free-form radio and the soul of public radio for at least one salient reason: 63% of public radios operate under the auspices of a college or university. Too many, such as KUT in Austin, operate under the cloak of state laws that allow them to hide any financial shenanigans. The bottom line is that any institutions — radio stations included — that receive public funding, through the CPB or otherwise, or are supported in part or whole by solicited pledges should be required by federal law to disclose all finances. Everything. Period.


One Response

  1. Just to clarify. Rice University started secretly looking for potential buyers about a year ago. They didn’t get an offer they couldn’t refuse.

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