As we have been reporting over the past several months, KTRU, the student radio station at Rice University, has been fighting a proposed sale to University of Houston that was first announced in August.
Although University of Houston hopes to eventually use the KTRU frequency for a classical public radio station (similar to what has already happened at KUSF), volunteers at KTRU still have control over the college radio station until the deal is approved by the FCC.
The groups Save KTRU and Friends of KTRU has been fighting the sale on a number of fronts, ranging from letter-writing campaigns to officials at Rice and University of Houston, to a strongly-worded Petition to Deny sent to the FCC, to investigative journalism focused on the wheeling and dealing (and subterfuge) of University of Houston, Rice University, and Public Radio Capital.
At this point the decision on the sale rests in the hands of the FCC, but that doesn’t mean that KTRU has given up on its future. Over the weekend, KTRU announced (PDF) that it has signed a deal with Pacifica radio station KPFT in order to continue broadcasting its signal over the Houston airwaves via KPFT’s 90.1 HD2-FM signal for at least 7 years. Although KTRU is still broadcasting over its current frequency of 91.7 FM in Houston; those days may be numbered as it’s possible that the FCC could announce a decision on the station sale at any time.
KTRU’s broadcasts over KPFT’s HD channel are set to begin next Monday, February 14 at 9:01 AM. According to the press release, Rice University will be helping to fund this HD initiative using some of the funds garnered from the sale of KTRU’s broadcast license and tower. In order to get a bit more perspective on this new arrangement and on the status of KTRU, I spoke with KTRU Station Manager Joey Yang.
Jennifer Waits: Any idea when the FCC will rule on UH’s proposed purchase of KTRU?
Joey Yang: No idea. We were told 2-6 months from the date of the case closing, which was in December. So, it could be tomorrow, it could be in June — we just don’t know.
Jennifer: How do you feel about the new HD agreement? Who orchestrated that deal?
Joey: Kelsey Yule, former Station Manager, Will Robedee, General Manager, and myself, as well as Duane Bradley at KPFT worked together to work out the HD agreement. We’re excited — it’s not an acceptable substitute for FM, but we’re excited about the technology and the growing-every day digital radio listener base.
Jennifer: What are the advantages and disadvantages of HD?
Joey: Well for one, KPFT broadcasts at 100,000 Watts, which is double our FM wattage, so we’re happy about that. Also, HD radio broadcasts in high-quality digital audio, which gives a much better sound than FM radio. The obvious disadvantage is that HD radio is still an up-and-coming technology, but that’s changing. We’re giving out HD radios to our listeners in response to this, and HD radios are shipping in many new car models.
Jennifer: I’m assuming that KTRU continues to operate normally during all of these negotiations/protests/etc. Do you feel that’s been an advantage for you guys?
Joey: Yeah, it’s lent some semblance of normalcy. It’s important to keep moving forward, and I’m lucky to have so many loyal and committed DJs to keep us going forward no matter what.
Jennifer: What’s the focus of SAVE KTRU’s efforts right now?
Joey: Save KTRU is still interested in blocking the sale of our NCE [non-commercial educational] FM license to UH, but our record is currently “closed” at the FCC, meaning that the FCC has taken in all the relevant information they need, such as our Petition to Deny and the replies to that, as well as the thousands of emails our listeners have sent to them, and they are currently deliberating our case. So we’re anxiously awaiting their decision.