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UH to buy Rice radio station (KTRU getting axed)

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by OldManBernie, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. kevC

    kevC Contributing Member

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    This is the e-mail I got from president Leebron of Rice through my soon-to-expire Rice e-mail.

    Dear __________,

    I am writing to let you know that we have reached a preliminary agreement with the University of Houston System to purchase Rice's 50,000-watt radio frequency and broadcast tower for use by Houston’s local public broadcasting station, KUHF. Rice’s station, KTRU, will continue to operate a Web-based radio station at www.ktru.org.

    We made this decision for several reasons. The economic downturn which began two years ago has forced Rice -- and virtually all colleges and universities across the country -- to make hard choices to prioritize spending and maximize the use of our resources. As we have implemented necessary budget cuts over the past two years, our goal has been to focus on our core missions of teaching and research and, to the extent possible, to avoid layoffs. We have constantly asked, and will continue to ask, how we can best apply our resources to achieve our aspirations.

    The KTRU tower stood out as one of the university’s most underutilized resources. In an era when Internet radio is rapidly growing in popularity, it became apparent that the 50,000-watt radio station that broadcasts KTRU's programming is a valuable but vastly underutilized resource that is not essential to providing our students the wide range of opportunities they need, including media opportunities. In fact, via the Internet, ktru.org can potentially reach a broader audience than ever.

    A recent Arbitron report showed that KTRU's audience was so small that it did not even register in the ratings. Most college radio stations around the country have less than 5,000 watts, and since the late '90s a number of them have added the online format and moved to online only.

    At the same time, KUHF, Houston’s National Public Radio station, was looking for a way to provide both 24-hour all-news and all-classical music programming. Houston is the only major city in the country that lacks these dual services. To fill that gap, the University of Houston System expressed an interest in purchasing Rice’s FM frequency and tower, and we eventually agreed on price of $9.5 million.

    The sale must be approved by the UH Board of Regents at its meeting today, and then by the Federal Communications Commission.

    Some of the sale proceeds will go toward the cost of the new East Servery, which will be adjacent to Lovett and Will Rice residential colleges on the south campus. This will both provide one of the most desired improvements to the residential experience in the south colleges, as well as help us with the achievement of our overall capital plan within the constraints approved by our board of trustees. We also plan to form a committee including students to provide input on other uses of the proceeds, such as scholarships, improvements to recreational facilities and enhancements to the online station and other student media facilities and programs.

    KTRU will continue to serve its campus and external audience via www.ktru.org with its student-managed programs. The Internet already brings KTRU to national and global listeners, and there are opportunities for that audience to grow. Will Robedee, the station's first general manager, will continue in that role. In addition, the agreement with KUHF provides for paid internships to be offered to Rice students.

    KUHF plans to use the additional frequency to broadcast 24-hour classical music and fine arts programming on 91.7 FM; 88.7 FM will become its all-news channel. KUHF will raise funds to pay for the acquisition.

    We realize that some loyal fans of KTRU, including alums, may lament these changes. It is important to remember that KTRU is not going away. Fans can still find KTRU's unique blend of music and programming online. Meanwhile, a greater number of students can benefit from the improvements in campus facilities and offerings made possible by the sale of the broadcast tower.

    I also know that some may wonder why they were not included in the decision. As much as I prefer to consult widely and involve all stakeholders in important decisions, this sale required months of complicated and, by necessity, confidential negotiations. My management team and I approached those discussions always with the best interests of our students, faculty and alumni and the future of our university as our highest priorities.

    For more information about the KTRU plans, see the story and FAQs on rice.edu.

    Thank you, as always, for your support of Rice.



    Warm regards,

    David W. Leebron
    President




    Personally, from my experience at Rice, I can think of 15 different things better to cut than our freaking radio station. I am absolutely livid about this. They're just trying to turn our school into Duke by just expanding and expanding and in ten years I'm not even going to be able to recognize all the things that made Rice great. The academics will always be there but what made Rice so special is how small and close-knit the student body is. Now they're cutting cost and selling our radio station so they can expand expand expand. :rolleyes:
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. WhoMikeJames

    WhoMikeJames Contributing Member

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    As a Rice student, I agree.
     
  3. aghast

    aghast Member

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    I've always liked KTRU, but at this point in my life I'd prefer to have the all-news network, all the time. NPR news and interview programs are stellar, and most of them don't even play in Houston (unless you have HD Radio).

    Give me some BBC news anytime I want to hear it, and a hit of some Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
     
  4. kevC

    kevC Contributing Member

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    Oh yeah? Year, college? I'm '10 Jones.
     
  5. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    If I am forced to listen to radio: during the week, I listen to NPR. During the weekend, I listen to KPFT.

    So....I don't care.
     
  6. RiceRocket1

    RiceRocket1 Member

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    As an alum, I agree. And Leebron still sucks.
     
  7. stipendlax

    stipendlax Member

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    Great contribution.
     
  8. The Drake

    The Drake Member

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    Jones?! **** Jones!
     
  9. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

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    Wrong forum! Oh, wait...

    I worked as a DJ there (Bleeding Head Variety Show) and even got into music directing for one year, reviewing a ton of albums (yes, vinyl albums... I'm that old.)

    Now I work at a similar sized small university that is considering such big questions of what to sell when and how to break the news. It's tough.

    A lot of schools are hurting right now endowment wise, but I don't necessarily see how $9.5M is going to make a huge difference to Rice. If (these days) you can rely on 3.5% return, then that's going to fund salary and benefits for like 3 staff lines or two faculty lines. I guess, if you see no value in the programming (as a trustee, regent, or president or VP of the school), then it's still worth it to sell the station, versus firing a few staffers.

    Even when I worked there, long ago, I wondered how long it could last. I mean, aside from a few sports broadcasts, the programming has almost nothing to do with the school (or at least when I was there.)

    I could be crazy, but I think people underestimate internet radio. I'm kind of in to it, and if KTRU.org makes a big push over the next couple of years, they'll find their national and international audience and probably end up with more listeners. I think the push should be NOT to "save KTRU" but to amp up the tragic news to attract new on-line listeners, STAT.

    In the end, this doesn't make me a bitter alum. The University has to make its choices. How on Earth could I expect the prez (or the board, or whomever finally made this decision) to love my little pet project which had little or nothing to do with the overall mission of the school.

    All that said, the GROWTH of Rice, and the new campaign to make it more rich, with more buildings, more departments, bigger bigger bigger... that leaves me cold and I see no great vision in it beyond a simple economic model. I definitely won't be giving money back to my alma mater at any rate.
     
  10. CheezeyBoy22

    CheezeyBoy22 Contributing Member
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    I'm more of a KSBJ guy...

    :grin:
     
  11. Southern Select

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    You're not going to protest or sign an petition? Sellout.
     
  12. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

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    I know you're being snarky and kidding, but yeah, I'm not protesting or signing a petition. Rice owns that tower and frequency and they can sell it.

    What chafes me most is my fellow alums who are decrying the "lack of consultation" type of thing. Let's see...

    Rice Prez: I wonder what people would think of selling KTRU?
    Advisor: I can canvas the campus, but our early simulations predict that 90% of the campus will not really care, but those students and alums who worked there would rather sell the Quad to Walmart, and if you sell the station they will say you suck thousands of times per day. Should I hold some meetings and get their exact opinions, possibly ruining any chance we have at making a deal in the first place?
    Prez: Hmmm, tough one. Let me think about it.
     
  13. JuanValdez

    JuanValdez Contributing Member

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    I thought the station was pretty hit or miss. Some cool stuff, plenty of terrible stuff.

    On the balance, I think it's a good thing for Houston. It means more NPR programming for me, and they do a much better job making content than KTRU could. I remember moving here from Chicago and finding out there was only NPR content around drive times; that was pretty disappointing. Of course, if they just ditched the classical music, that'd been fine too.
     
  14. Pistol Pete

    Pistol Pete Contributing Member
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    I'm a longtime friend of the DJ on the Lone Star Jukebox, Rick Heysquierdo.
     
  15. University Blue

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    http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2010/08/18/west_university_examiner/news/wu_ktru_sale.txt

    Static at Rice U over radio station sale

    By STEVE MARK
    Updated: 08.18.10
    With Indian music as a backdrop, KTRU-FM radio program director Joey Yang will express his ire toward Rice University’s administration, to anyone who will listen.

    “It’s disappointing that a university would sell out its students,” said Yang.

    The problem for Yang and his KTRU student co-workers is that the station’s listenership is small and getting smaller, leading the university to sell the frequency and Rice-owned tower to the University of Houston, which will turn 91.7 into UH’s second public radio outlet.

    Rice President David Leebron informed students Tuesday that the sale to UH will transform KTRU to an Internet-only radio station. As part of the sale, yet to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, Rice University will be paid $9.5 million.

    “We realize that some loyal fans of KTRU may lament these changes,” Leebron said in a statement to the Rice community. “It is important to remember that KTRU is not going away. Fans can still find KTRU's unique blend of music and programming online. Meanwhile, a greater number of students can benefit from the improvements in campus facilities and offerings made possible by the sale of the broadcast tower.”

    Rice University considered shuttering KTRU back in 2000, and the current sale arrangement had been rumored for months. Still the developments stunned and angered members of the station staff and students arriving on campus for fall orientation.

    A few students convened Tuesday night for a “Save KTRU” meeting, though knew any protest—on the airwaves, or in the flesh—were probably futile.

    “The university didn’t do us right,” said Kenny Zhang, a senior engineering major who is a student advisor. “KTRU is special because it is student-run, so we should have a part in the decision.”

    Added Zhang: “I don’t think this will increase the listening base at all.”

    Leebron’s decision is bolstered by KTRU’s negligible audience base. Of the 46 Houston-market stations rated by Arbitron, KTRU is nowhere on the list; the station’s ratings aren’t sizeable enough to register. Texas Southern University’s jazz-format KTSU is ranked 28th in the market. UH’s KUHF has long been a news/classical music mainstay and will now focus on 24-hour news while the KTRU acquisition will program round-the-clock music.

    Radio trends reveal continued decrease in nationwide listenership, especially among teens and young adult demographics, while Internet audiences have risen sharply in recent years.

    Such industry trends, however, do not lessen the angst at KTRU.

    “Having a college radio station is so much more powerful than having online radio,” said Yang. “Online radio is like pirate radio. KTRU is known for an overall philosophy, to play what you can’t hear anywhere else.”

    KTRU’s faculty general manager, Will Robedee, declined to comment to The Examiner.

    The station’s playlist, featuring the likes of the Matthew Ship Duo’s “2-z” and Wooley-Lytton’s “Filtering the Fogweed” remains eclectic, though soon to exit from common airwaves. In the current economy, Rice’s sale of the KTRU asset might have been even considered forward-thinking.

    Continued Leebron in his statement: “The economic downturn which began two years ago has forced Rice -- and virtually all colleges and universities across the country -- to make hard choices to prioritize spending and maximize the use of our resources.”

    ...

    Not everything that glitters is ... ivy. Who knew?
     
  16. Dairy Ashford

    Dairy Ashford Member

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    I can't see how this makes sense for the Communication/RTV(?) students over at Rice, maybe those guys in particular don't have a huge alumni base. I don't think TSU or SWT is closing down their (student) radio station. I guess U of H lucked out, or was very wise, to get the jump on Public TV and Radio 50 years ago; having the local NPR franchise must be a nice, steady revenue stream. Or something. How does public broadcasting work, again?
     
  17. Cohete Rojo

    Cohete Rojo Contributing Member

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    First it was 101.1 KLOL, now this, 91.7 KTRU. WTF Houston? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
     
  18. Kam

    Kam Contributing Member

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    cool bump.

    No love for 106.9 going from the Point to the Zone?
     
  19. bigtexxx

    bigtexxx Contributing Member

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    As a Rice alum, I always thought KTRU was a bunch of weirdos playing very "strange" music. Can't really say I'll miss it, but then again, I'm not much of a music guy.

    What's hilarious is that we duped our dullard friends from the third ward into paying us $9.5M for it. that's pretty funny, actually
     
  20. Mr. Brightside

    Mr. Brightside Contributing Member

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    KTRU had some sweet concerts a few years back on the Rice campus. I remember Ratatat played for free. So did Okervil River.
     

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