December 3, 2010
Federal Communications Commission
I hereby file a Formal Objection to the proposed license transfer of NCE station KTRU 91.7 FM, Houston, TX, and its 91.5 FM translator from Rice University (“Rice”) to the University of Houston System (“UHS”).
File No. BALED-20101029ACX and BALFT-20101029ACY.
The manner in which the administration of Rice President David Leebron undertook this sale is contrary to both the Universities’ and the public’s interest in providing openness and responsiveness to the listening community. It is contrary in spirit and action to the Commission’s stated goal of serving the public interest.
UHS already owns and operates a 100,000 watt NCE station in Houston, KUHF 88.7 FM. The station broadcasts both classical music and news programs, largely from its affiliation with National Public Radio (NPR). UHS has stated that KUHF would become a 24-hour NPR station and KTRU’s programming on 91.7 FM would be replaced by another UHS station, KUHC, with a proposed 24-hour classical music format.
Initially UHS claimed that this would provide “additional and improved service” to its classical music listeners. It has now been well documented that the opposite is true. Large portions of the Houston listening area that currently receive classical music on the 100,000 station will loose reception entirely under the 50,000 watt station, UHS has already received scores of complaints and membership cancellations because of this deliberate misinformation campaign. UHS has given no indication that this programming will originate in Houston. It is believed that the vast majority of classical music programming will originate from NPR sources in Washington, DC or elsewhere. Locally produced programming for Houston will be dramatically reduced.
KTRU was created by the students of Rice University, and has been staffed and programmed entirely by student and community volunteers for over forty years. It adheres to an educational programming philosophy, and accomplishes its mission by showcasing musical artists and genres that other Houston radio stations neglect to broadcast. No other radio station in Houston will provide the kind of programming currently available on KTRU.
KTRU, widely known as “Rice Radio,” is the last student operated educational station in the fourth largest city in the United States. Newly released documents obtained by KTRU supporters and Houston and Texas media outlets now show that the administration of Rice University has shown not only lack of support, but open hostility, towards providing its own students with a broadcast outlet.
100% of KTRU’s programming is locally produced. It provides local artists and community groups exposure with live in-studio performances and interviews dedicated to musicians and performers within the Houston community who otherwise would have little or no access to mass media. KTRU plays an important, irreplaceable role by increasing awareness of, as well as directly participating in, the Houston music and arts scene through organizing concerts, producing and distributing compilations of live recordings.
It has now been documented in the local media, that Rice and UHS proposed and implemented this transfer hidden away from the public’s view. Documents released show that President David Leebron, Mr. B.J. Almond, Senior Director of News and Media Relations and Ms. Linda Thrane, Vice-President for Public Affairs, worked covertly, with arrogance and impunity, not to inform their own students, faculty, alumni or community members, or even the station staff itself…but to keep such information entirely secret.
I wish to go on record as stating that the actions of President Leebron and his ilk were underhanded, self-serving, and completely contrary to the stated policies of openness and responsiveness to the University communities, and completely at odds with the public service requirement of the Commission.
I respectfully ask the Commission to DENY this proposed transfer of license. I ask for a written response to this inquiry in a timely manner.
JAMES R. ELLINGER
Austin Airwaves, Inc.
P. O. Box 49492
Austin, TX 78765