“Because I Said So”

Such, then, is the final word of the ham-fisted bureaucrats at Rice University in the ongoing public relations disaster that has been the impending sale of KTRU, the student-run 50,000-watt radio station in Houston. Bumbling from one mealy-mouthed rationale to the next — a requisite of the job apparently at our nation’s universities of late — the suits may have finally settled on the truth of the matter: because they’re entitled.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any slimier, the Texas Watchdog blog posted this story: “University of Houston practiced deception, cooked up ‘cover story’ as it closed deal to acquire Rice University’s KTRU radio station.” We’d posted here and elsewhere before, detailing that the current 50,000-watt transmitter was a gift to students — not to bean counters — along with operating funds. The station license was held in trust by the university, and they’ve turned that into a license to steal, with a sang-froid suitable for the blackest of covert operatives:

The University of Houston plotted to keep its acquisition of Rice University’s student-run KTRU radio station secret as long as possible — going so far at one point as to encourage lying to Rice students about why an engineering consultant needed access to the station, e-mails obtained by Texas Watchdog show.

“The longer we wait (for an agreement) the higher the likelihood of one of the ‘campus constituencies’ causes a problem for Rice, which could disrupt the transaction,” reads an April 5 e-mail to UH officials from an agent at Public Radio Capital, which represented the school in the $9.9 million deal signed last month.

Public Radio Capital, you may remember, is described in this post as one of the great enablers of NPR’s consolidation fervor, providing financing for these takeovers. And, apparently, advice on covert operations:

On April 20, another e-mail from Erik Langner, director of acquisitions at Public Radio Capital, warned UH officials that “University of Houston and Rice should now be working with one another on the transition and public relations strategy. As you know, news of this transition will become public once the asset purchase agreement is put on file with the FCC.”

Langner suggested officials lie to KTRU staff about the reason for a visit and assessment of assets from a consulting engineer, which the University of Houston and its consultant needed to develop a business plan. Fearful of tipping off KTRU staff as to a pending sale, Langner e-mailed a strategy to Greg Guy at Patrick Communications, a Maryland brokerage which represented Rice in the deal:

“We recognize that Rice is going to have a hard time generating a complete list of assets without some of the station personnel’s input, and we agree that tipping off some of those individuals may not be advisable. . . . We request that Rice provide a cover story for an independent 3rd party engineering consultant, to be chosen by UH, to perform an inspection of the transmitter building, transmitter equipment, transmission line, tower and antennae. Rice should actually hire the consultant we specify, so there will be no question as to the source of the inspection, which of course will have to be coordinated with the station engineer somehow. Rice can use any reason it chooses, some of which can include change of insurance, inventory needs, or any other plausible explanation. UH will reimburse Rice for the cost of the inspection.”

The communication records suggest a pattern of secrecy and bolster previous suspicions that the university circumvented public records laws in its effort to get the deal passed, said Joe Larsen, a Houston lawyer and a board member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

A nice piece of investigative reporting from the Watchdog and a good job of mining open records — well worth the read. The dénouement of this sordid affair awaits your input. As noted yesterday, the site savektru.org has a list of what you can do to help the stem the tide of hypocrisy and deceit at Rice. Join us in signing the petition to the FCC and sending your own plea for sanity. Take a few minutes and join the fight.

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2 Responses

  1. […] the Public in Public Radio: “‘Because I Said So’“ Such, then, is the final word of the ham-fisted bureaucrats at Rice University in the […]

  2. […] the original post:  “Because I Said So” « Keeping the Public in Public Radio By admin | category: RICE University | tags: been-the-impending, impending, ktru, RICE […]

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