With the FCC’s 30-day comment window now closed, the decision on whether or not to grant University of Houston its request to purchase Rice University’s student radio station KTRU is in the hands of the FCC. The group Friends of KTRU submitted an extensive “Petition to Deny” to the FCC on December 7, outlining all of the reasons why the sale of the Rice University station was not in the public interest to the residents of Houston or to students of Rice University.
On December 13, both University of Houston and Rice University sent in letters of opposition to the FCC in response to Friends of KTRU’s “Petition to Deny.” Today, Friends of KTRU fought back with a reply to the FCC that enumerates all of the reasons why the stated oppositions by Rice and University of Houston do not address the negative impact of the station sale on the public interest and on the educational intent of the FCC license at issue.
In today’s “Reply to Oppositions” (PDF), Friends of KTRU blast both Rice University and University of Houston for misreading the intent of their petition to deny. In a press release, Friends of KTRU states that,
“‘The claims of Rice University and the University of Houston System miss the underlying points of the Petition to Deny,’ said Joey Yang, KTRU station manager. ‘They failed to address two of our major points: that the license transfer undermines the educational purpose of the FM license, and that elimination of KTRU-FM will harm the FCC’s commitment to localism. We call on the FCC to recognize these and the many other salient points in our Petition to Deny. The future of Houston radio depends on it.’”
According to today’s “Reply to Oppositions” letter, “The Oppositions rely on a single flawed premise: that the assignment application…represents a mere format change…” The letter goes on to explain that by selling KTRU to University of Houston, a changed format change is not the main issue; rather that depriving students of the opportunity to run their own radio station is distressing. According to the letter,
“…Rice continues by demeaning its own students’ educational experiences at KTRU, calling the student-run operations broadcasting over the KTRU License nothing more ‘than an extracurricular activity,’ while noting that UHS [University of Houston System] has a broadcast journalism major that will better prepare students for a career in professional broadcasting. The students who have single-handedly run KTRU since its inception would surely disagree with that assertion, particularly those UHS [University of Houston System] students who were unable to obtain hands-on experience at KUHF [the University of Houston radio station] and found opportunity and open doors at KTRU to gain practical broadcasting experience.”
They go on to explain that the sale of KTRU would be detrimental because it “does not truly serve the educational public interest.” I was also pleased to see that in their letter, Friends of KTRU mentions the growing trend of universities selling off their student radio stations in order to make a profit and seeks the Commission’s assistance in addressing this trend before more educational radio stations are lost. They also point out how sad it is that Rice University, in its letter of opposition, suggests that prospective students seeking broadcast experiences should apply to other institutions.
Additionally, the letter makes the point that if the FCC approves the sale of KTRU to University of Houston, the resulting public radio station will not have as strong a commitment to localism as the current student-run KTRU. The plan is for the University of Houston-run station to air mostly syndicated national and international programming and according to the letter written by Friends of KTRU, “UHS’ Application reveals not one additional program to be added to its stations that is specific to the local Houston area.”
I continue to be incredibly impressed by the persistence of KTRU supporters and am hopeful that their efforts will pay off. I also hope that other college radio stations facing similar crises will take a close look at the discourse in this case, as Friends of KTRU has done an amazing job of collecting arguments in favor of the ongoing relevance of terrestrial student radio stations.