Rice Radio R.I.P.

This post on the Save KTRU site speaks to the anger those involved in Rice Radio hold for the FCC and its ruling selling the student station to the University of Houston:

FCC reneges on its commitment to localism
Decision to allow transfer of KTRU license contrary to the public interest

HOUSTON, April 17, 2011— Friends of KTRU, a group of students, alumni and community members devoted to stopping the sale of KTRU’s non-commercial (NCE) FM license, notes with disappointment the recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the transfer of KTRU’s FM license from Rice University to the University of Houston System (UHS). The decision shows a lack of commitment on the part of the FCC to its own public statements regarding the importance of localism and diversity in American broadcast media.

If the segment of the FM radio dial reserved for noncommercial stations is now also subject to the unobstructed machinations of the free market, it is highly likely that local voices will increasingly disappear from American broadcast radio. Indeed, evidence of such a trend is already overwhelming, and it is quite clear that market forces are promoting uniformity at the expense of diversity. Only through protection by a government agency properly enforcing its mandate to regulate this resource on behalf of the public, and thus maintaining sources of relevant locally produced programming, will such stations continue to exist and enrich the public cultural discourse of their communities.

The degree to which a station serves its local community can be evaluated independently of its particular format. We propose that in the future, the FCC not hold itself hostage to outmoded precedents running contrary to its stated goals, but instead consider and base its regulations and actions on what is truly in the public interest, to spare other communities the fate of a media bereft of meaningful local voices.

Regardless of FCC sanction, the short-sighted and unnecessary sale by Rice of a culturally important student-created asset without the assent of its students or alumni would be a terrible betrayal, while the purchase by UHS of an additional radio station for $9.5 million would be fiscally irresponsible for a state institution at a time when the state’s budget is in a state of crisis.

“We are extremely grateful for the thousands of supporters who stood by KTRU when we filed our Petition to Deny,” said KTRU Station Manager Kevin Bush. “Although we are disappointed with the FCC’s decision, we continue to hope that either Rice or UH will withdraw from the deal. KTRU will continue broadcasting on 91.7 FM until further notice, and we will provide updates as soon as they become available.”

The depth of sorrow expressed by students and alumni who built up the station with their sweat equity is best expressed in the following comment on the website. It describes what may be the ultimate slap in the face to students: that the administration, behind the backs of students, would turn around and cash in on the hard work done over the years in building up the station:

A very sad day in my life.

I volunteered at KTRU between 250 and 50k watts, and now all I can think is the university stole all that time and effort. I didn’t volunteer to benefit the school — I did it for fun and the folks I worked with.

If I ever needed closure after moving on — this will do it.

Good luck to the current and future KTRU folk. May you have fun and grow with the times.
Whatever you do — think about re-writing the KTRU charter so the university has no ownership rights to whatever you create.

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