Radio sale riles Rice students

The sale of KTRU brought around 300 students and community members to Rice University, where its namesake was brought into the action. | Courtesy of John Grungy Gladu

Sunday afternoon brought blazing temperatures and a heated protest on the Rice University campus.

Around 300 students, faculty and community members gathered in front of the William Marsh Rice statue in the university’s academic quadrangle to protest the sale of KTRU, the student-run radio station, to UH.

“The purpose of the rally was to raise awareness about the sale, and show administrators from both UH and Rice that KTRU’s listeners are real people who are passionate about the station,” said station manager Kasey Yule.

Students, alumni and faculty spoke out about their feelings on the sale and the importance of the station to the community.

KTRU General Manager Glen Bradley spoke to the protestors about the importance of media diversity.

Programming at KTRU includes a variety of independent music shows that many believe are important to the FM dial. UH intends to use the frequency for an all-classical station, but supporters believe KTRU’s programming is more in line with what students want to listen to.

Rice students are not the only ones upset about the loss of KTRU.

“KTRU was a student channel and now UH wants to turn it into a fully functional faculty station,” UH finance senior Derek Broussard said. “This leaves Houston without an indie outlet.”

KTRU will still be online but supporters of the station say the sale of their FM frequency will cost them listeners.

“FM frequency is incredibly important to our listenership,” said Yule.  “We rely on listeners stumbling upon us on the dial.”

It is not just the sale of the frequency that has people heated; the Rice administration’s failure to notify the students who run the station or the community that listens to it of their intent to sell also has protesters riled up.

“Our administration has all these lofty policies about student input and open dialogue but covertly did this behind our backs,” Yule said. “I can think of no legitimate reason that people weren’t notified when Rice put KTRU on the market.”

A recent Texas Watchdog article stated that Rice officials might have led UH to believe that listenership at KTRU was low, and therefore resistance to the sale of the station would not be an issue.  The Rice administration was proven wrong after the public outcry when the news of the sale was announced in an article in the Houston Press.

Yule says that although the station could be taken off the air as soon as the deal is signed, KTRU supporters fully intend to continue the fight until the FCC approves the sale, which could take up to 30 days.

  • @GPackwood

    Ashley. A radio station communicates with their listeners via their R.A.D.I.O. station and not the Houston Press.

    50,000 Watts of radio signal can communicate with millions of listeners if people are actually listening.

    The excellent coverage of the sale from the Houston Press pretty much proves that it took newspaper communication to rally support for the radio station.

    Public outcry indeed.

  • Jen

    Since this covert sale took place over summer break, those 50,000 watts would have to travel an awful long distance for any radio news to reach the students, wouldn’t they? And as for the excellent coverage of the Houston Press, that began just days before the sale and was the first hint the KTRU staff, the Rice students, and the Houston community in general had that this was going down.

    I wonder if the university would have waited until after the FCC finalized the sale of the license before notifying the students of anything. Kudos to the Press for figuring out the obsure UH agenda item referenced something as dire as the unilateral sale of a Rice student organization’s primary asset, but don’t pretend that KTRU can’t rally support on its own.

  • Jeff Greer

    As a Rice alum, I'm fighting mad. I'd encourage all who are interested in KTRU, good music, or institutional ethics to visit and educate themselves on the back story. It's particularly interesting that Rice never bought the transmitter that they are trying to sell out from under the students. KTRU is what it is today because of the students' hard work and a stroke or two of luck.

  • Disappointed

    GPackwood, I think your comment is uninformed. Rice and UH had a confidentiality agreement to keep the sale secret and UH purposely did not identify KTRU on the agenda for the Board of Regents meeting that approved the purchase. The Houston Press got wind of it less than 24 hours before the vote.

    I am a UH student and I think this whole deal is a blemish on UH.

  • Robert P.

    Ms. Evans, thank you for your article, but Rice students are not the only ones that are riled. I am a University of Houston alum and I am also riled. Actually, I am very angry at both UH and Rice. I am angry, that both schools, in total secrecy, like some banana republic junta, decided to exclude tax payers, alumni and students from both schools, and the community from the process. No other station comes close to KTRU, with its student-run commercial-free programming.

    KTRU is a wonderful station. I listen to KTRU everyday, in my car and at home. I want to keep KTRU on the airwaves. I will do everything I can, as a KTRU supporter, to legally fight for the station. If the pending sale happens, I will never again support UH and Rice with one more penny of my hard earned money, as I have been for two decades.

    I respectfully call on all UH alumni and students to let the UH administration know how they feel. Speak out now because up to know your voice and views were ignored, as the Houston Press and the Texas Watchdog have revealed.

  • Robert P.

    As a UH alum, I am frankly embarrassed that the university is a party to this fiasco. As of last week, I am boycotting all the Landy’s Restaurants because of Mr. Tilman J. Fertitta’s vote, as a UH regent, to allow UH to proceed with the purchase, and in the process destroy KTRU and remove it from the airwaves.

    You bet, I am fuming mad.

  • ladycougarrant

    Classical? Really? Snorefest….

  • Alex

    Everyone does realize it's been for sale for over a year. This is Rice wanting to sell it and not UH taking it away.

    It's called free enterprise and if listeners want the station so bad, Pay for it to continue. Rice is getting rid of it because it can not afford it. that is what we call Life.

  • Sarah

    Rice doesn't pay anything for KTRU. The transmitter was donated, along with an endowment for its upkeep. Everyone please visit to find out what you can do to stop the sale, which has not yet gone through! is also a great place to read the history of the station, and thereby to get facts straight. Thanks for this article, Daily Cougar!

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