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Monday, June 25, 2018

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Officials finalize KTRU sale


Dozens of Rice University students immediately held a Save KTRU demonstration in August when the sale of the radio station was announced to object the administrators' moves on the Rice campus. | Courtesy of Nick Schlossman

The Rice administration has finalized agreements to sell the frequency of KTRU, Rice’s student run radio station, to UH.

As a result, KTRU’s student staff has retained the legal counsel of the Washington D.C.-based Paul Hastings Law Firm that handles a multitude of issues, some of which include mergers and acquisitions as well as telecommunication laws.

“The lawyers at Paul Hastings have taken on our case with a great deal of sympathy for our predicament,” KTRU station manager Joey Yang said. “I think that with their experience and knowledge they are well suited to handle the case.”

The case will be brought to the Federal Communications Commission for review as soon as the administration petitions for a transfer of the license.

When the petition is filed with the FCC, there will be a 30-day window for public input, then the FCC will decide whether a transfer of the license is in the best interest of the public and the community.

Yang and 5,000 other petitioners support the decision to file a petition denying the transfer.

Despite the outcome of the proceedings, KTRU will still be operational as an online radio station, but Yang said that the loss of their position on the FM dial will be a “huge blow,” and would take away some of the legitimacy of working at the radio station and hinder the station’s outreach opportunities within the community.

Many community members are shocked that the UH and Rice administrations would go forward with the deal, considering the amount of opposition that has already been expressed throughout the Houston community.

“Student broadcasting is non-commercial radio. It’s something that’s supposed to be an educational experience,” Yang said. “It’s a public service we do out of pure altruism and the fact that all that has to be sacrificed for a few million dollars, in my mind, is tragic.”

Yang said that there is a sentiment resonating throughout the community that, sadly, this is about money.

“The fact that Rice has chosen to ignore the students’ and community’s concerns really speaks volumes to how much they regard their opinion and intellectual creativity,” Yang said.

This has increased the level of curiousity as to how UH is getting the $9.5 million to pay for the license and what Rice is planning to do with it.

In a letter released to students, faculty and staff Rice President David Leebron said the funds would be used for a “food service venture.”

This statement has led many to believe that the Rice administration is selling KTRU to obtain funding, after coming up short in their latest addition to the campus — the new east servery.

According to public documents, UH plans to take on a 20-year tax-exempt bond to fund the creation of the university’s new 24-hour classical station KUHC.

According to the business plan provided to the Board of Regents, KUHF, the current UH radio station, “will service 100 percent of the debt from fundraising through the community.”

In a recent statement UH President Renu Khator said, “The acquisition of a second public radio station delivers on our promise to keep UH at the forefront of creating strong cultural, educational and artistic opportunities that benefit students and the city of Houston.

“We now have the cultural assets to deliver NPR news, public affairs and classical programming to Houston 24 hours a day, placing UH in the company of an elite group of universities.”

The petition of transfer is expected to be filed within the next two weeks.

Yang said the station will then, with the help of The Paul Hastings firm, submit to the FCC a petition to deny the transfer of the license.

Students, alumni, faculty and staff from both sides of the issue are encouraged to voice their opinion on the sale with the FCC during the 30-day window, which Yang said he feels is important.

“Historically, universities are places where free thought and experimentation are encouraged,” Yang said. “Universities embody the intellectual and educational mission that KTRU represents.”


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