Tag Archives: college radio

The First Day Without KTRU

Who did this?

“We fought Leebron, and Leebron won.”

These were the words sung over The Clash’s cover in the waning hours of KTRU’s broadcast existence. Perhaps given the sudden interest in listening to KTRU last night, a more appropriate song would have been “Big Yellow Taxi.” Or, better known by its lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Of course, one can wonder just how much fighting KTRU supporters did. The opposition seemed to come in spurts, and largely failed to use the Thresher as a constant megaphone for the movement. KTRU never had a sit-in at the president’s office to force Leebron to personally address student concerns, as occurred at other schools that were eliminating their college radio stations. There was no major fundraising to try to buy the license.

On the other hand, KTRU did get well respected law firm Paul Hastings to file an actual Petition to Deny.

If anything, the opposition to the KTRU sale demonstrated that Rice isn’t prone to usual college protests. Rather, it is a place of goal-oriented pragmatism. Whether this helped or hurt the end goal is arguable. After all, if the current political atmosphere demonstrates anything, it is that demonizing and lies can often get one much further than actual arguments.

But either way, it is finished.

After a night of Twitter domination, 40 years of KTRU memories, and the most eclectic playlist anywhere, Station Manager Joey Yang signed off with a replay of Jesse Jackson’s speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention (I think they mean the 1988 convention), and an appropriate “Fuck School,” by The Replacements.  Luckily, Houston Press’ Rocks Off posted these final recordings.

Joey\’s KTRU signoff

Final KTRU transmission

Rice got $10 million for its troubles. What did we get? One final moment of glory at 91.7, KTRU-FM Rice Radio.

ABC News talks about KTRU

A few days ago, ABC News had a short piece in its “Campus Chatter” section talking about how schools are selling their radio stations. Titled, “College Radio Stations Beloved but Struggling,” the piece does a quick overview of various sales and the circumstances behind them. Admittedly, the reference to KTRU itself was short:

Rice University sold its station, but to another university. The University of Houston bought Rice’s broadcast tower, FM frequency and license for $9.5 million.

However, this description is misleading. KTRU isn’t going to become a station for another university, but rather a classical music station under the tag KUHC.

There are also a few other problems with the article. It claims that:

Schools have a hard time keeping up with Top 40 networks because they just don’t have the money to do it.

Keeping up with Top 40 networks is rarely the underlying purpose of these stations, many of which operate not for profit and with an educational license.

The article also claims that part of the problem is financial.

Without necessary funding, schools nationwide have to sell their airspace to commercial stations, and use the extra cash for other expenses.

As Rice demonstrated, many universities have the ability to raise funds for artistic endeavors, even ones that don’t actively engage students or give them leadership and broadcasting experience. Schools don’t have to sell their stations any more than they have to sell their other assets that don’t create regular cash flow.

Indeed, in many of these circumstances, schools are not willing to even let radio supporters try to raise the money to support the station. As KUSF supporter Irwin Swirnoff put it:

“No one is questioning U.S.F.’s right to liquidate an asset,” Mr. Swirnoff said. “All we want is to have the opportunity to buy that transmitter.”

Rice University, Suzanne Deal Booth, and spitting on KTRU from a Skyspace

When Rice announced the sale of the KTRU station and transmitter, they said that the $9.5 million was absolutely necessary for the university. Yet since then, Rice has spent millions on additions to the school. What necessary financial hole did the KTRU sale fill? Well, apparently such important and time-sensitive needs as student-taught courses and, gasp, a rock wall!

The newest development in Rice’s contradiction and hypocrisy surrounding the yet to be justified KTRU sale is a $6 million donation to Rice’s musical arts. Unfortunately, it is not to preserve KTRU’s place on the airwaves, allowing the station to provide rare and exotic music for the Houston community. Rather, it is for a music pyramid with a tunnel or something. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it is called a Skyspace.

According to Wikipedia:

A skyspace is an architectural design in which a room, which is painted in a neutral color has a large hole in its ceiling which opens directly to the sky. The room, whose perimeter has benches, allows observers to look at the sky in such a way as though it were framed. LED lights which surround the hole can change colors to affect the viewer’s perception of the sky.

The design is the work of American artist James Turrell.

But from another perspective, it is a hypocritical betrayal of of the musical arts at Rice and of Suzanne Deal Booth’s own stated artistic goals. But who is Suzanne Deal Booth?

 

The Six Million Daughter Woman

Well first, she graduated from Rice in 1977 and is now on the Rice Board of Trustees. Second, she is the founder and director of the Friends of Heritage Preservation, an organization she founded by grouping “likeminded individuals [to] pool resources.” And what do these likeminded individuals do?

We are dedicated to protecting and preserving the cultural and artistic heritage of our world for generations to come. We are committed to serving as agents in the preservation process by funding and facilitating important projects on a national and international basis. We believe that our actions will directly increase global awareness of fundamental cultural heritage concerns.

That’s cool. Although I’m not entirely sure how a Skyspace (isn’t the sky already in space? or the space is the sky?) is going to accomplish this. Apparently it will provide a new space for musical performances. Perhaps if these musical performances were some sort of disappearing artistic form, hidden aboriginal songs, or foreign music that was not yet brought to the attention of Houstonians, then this Skyspace would certainly help in the process of preserving art. But out of the mainstream is not something that the Shepherd School does well, assumedly the people who will be playing there. And if it isn’t classical or operatic, don’t look for it at Shepherd.

If Booth wanted to help preserve the world’s cultural and artistic heritage for years to come, wouldn’t it have made more sense to get involved with an organization that actually engages in the world’s artistic heritage, playingmusic that cannot be heard anywhere else in Houston? Wouldn’t it have made sense for her to get involved in KTRU?

Maybe Booth, like other people, thought that KTRU was just a bunch of elitists, out of touch with the rest of the world. But according her column, “Out of the Ordinary,” in the Huffington Post, that perception is something to be fixed, not something that indicates inherent failures:

Museums have long suffered from the perception that they are stodgy old institutions, out of touch with the rest of the world and at their core, elitist. It’s a reputation both deserved and undeserved. After all, most museums offer an abundance of programming for children and families and welcome people of all kinds. Why then, the lingering feeling that museums are closed off to all but the privileged?

Like museums, KTRU offers programming for children and families in the form of the weekend Kids Show. And unlike the perception that museums are closed off all but to the privileged, KTRU is available to anyone with an FM radio. Online radio is physically and financially more restrictive. Perhaps the $6 million could be better spent exposing the lost musical heritage of the world to a city dominated by Clear Channel stations, if the goal is to protect and preserve the cultural and artistic heritage of the world. But if the goal was to create a neat looking building where the Shepherd School could play a very limited range of music and students could get high, then the Skyspace is on the mark.

Furthermore, Booth has expressed a personal affinity for music that has the ability to “transport [her] to a culture and land that urged exploration.” If she loves that, then perhaps Booth would want to help fund the KTRU World Music show, which breaks from the grip of contemporary music to help connect the listener with a different way of life. Certainly that show could help transport her, not to mention the rest of the Houston community.

Specifically, Booth has expressed an interest in helping living artists. While Rice students probably don’t have the millions that she has, they did have the opportunity to support artists around Houston by giving them 50,000 watts of radio transmission, helping to reveal the work of new, living artists to their community. As Booth said:

Somewhere between the rarified perspective of art world insiders and the disinterested viewpoint of the average American, too little is being done to directly support living artists in this country.

KTRU may not have had lots of money, but it definitely helped to bolster living artists in this country. And now it is being relegated to the lost cacophony of online radio.

Now, one can argue that Booth could not have known about the KTRU sale. After all, this Skyspace plan was first announced in August 2009. [Edit: Skyspace preliminary plans were announced in Feb. 2009] However, the earliest communications about the KTRU sale date back to May 29, 2009, before this announcement [Edit: And Texas Watchdog indicated that conversations dated back to 2008]. And considering that she has been on the Rice Board since January 2009, this sale must have been something of which she was aware or even helped plan. At the very time when Rice was working to sell KTRU as a budgetary necessity, they were planning a donation for an artistic construction. Why was the sale necessary, again?

Either way, the Skyspace is designed for “acoustic performance,” and Booth said that it is supposed to be “a public piece of artwork [...] accessible to everyone.” But Rice already had an acoustic performance that was accessible to everyone without having to pay $1-12 to park. It was called KTRU. It brought local living artists and transformative music to all of Houston for free, reaching at the very least 25,000 listeners. Hopefully, this new Skyspace will reach more than 25,000 people, or else it may be sold as an underutilized resource.

And even if Suzanne Deal Booth did not want to give her money to KTRU, Rice could at least have given alumni the chance to donate and save the station. But Rice did not even do that. If Rice doubted the ability to get a major donor to support the station, multiple smaller donors could have done the job. As Booth herself argues, one of the best ways to support artistic institutions is for likeminded people to pool resources. But Rice’s goal was apparently to sell KTRU as quickly and secretively as possible.

So what is the end lesson? Marry rich. Then you can give your husband’s money to whomever you want, have them slap your name on it, and then spend the rest of the time chasing eclipses around the world and blogging for the Huffington Post.

A paper I wrote for law school about KTRU and Internet Radio

For my Entertainment and Media Law class at Cardozo, I wrote a paper about the legal ramifications of Rice University selling the KTRU license and transmitter. I think it was an A- paper, which I suppose is pretty good. (The professors never responded with a direct grade for the paper, only for the overall class.) Anyways, here in the paper, in which I quote myself (pdf: Mintz KTRU legal) :

I. Introduction and History

A. Selling College Radio Stations

On December 5, 2010, the New York Times ran an article titled “Waning Support for College Radio Sets Off a Debate.”1 The article brought to national attention the problem of universities selling their college radio stations, notably addressing the recent controversies surrounding the sale of Rice University’s KTRU and Vanderbilt University’s WRVU. Since the article was published, Vanderbilt has not solidified any sale of its station. However, Rice University has continued with a sale marred by secrecy and controversy, and is currently waiting for the FCC to approve the license transfer that would allow the University of Houston to take over the frequency, turning KTRU into a classical music KUHC and the University of Houston’s current station KUHF into a 24-hour NPR station.2

Opponents of the sale have provided many reasons for their anger about and opposition to the sale. On the student and alumni side, Rice University has not provided any formal study justifying the sale and sold the station without discussion with the students and alumni who created and managed the station.3 The resulting sale will eliminate a source of media and broadcast education for students and will destroy a link with the surrounding city, local art establishment, and minority community, all contrary to the university’s previously stated goals.4

From the perspective of non-student or alumni opponents to the sale, removing KTRU from the airwaves would eliminate a unique, and award winning, source of music that cannot be found elsewhere in the local radio market.5 Furthermore, the secrecy of the deal was in potential violation of Texas’ Open Meetings Act.6

B. How Has the FCC Looked At Selling Radio Stations?

While monetary concerns, misleading university administrators, and musical aesthetics may make for good protest rhetoric, they do not make a cohesive legal argument against the sale of the KTRU frequency. In fact, in its Opposition to the Petition to Deny, Rice University specifically latched onto this framing of arguments against the transfer as programming-related arguments.7 From this perspective the Commission’s precedent is established: “the Commission does not scrutinize or regulate programming, nor does it take potential changes in programming formats into consideration in review assignment application.” 8

In the past the courts have scrutinized programming out of concern of preserving unique content on the airwaves. In Citizens Committee to Keep Progressive Rock v. F.C.C., the D.C. Circuit stated that it was “in the public interest, as that was conceived of by a Congress representative of all the people, for all major aspects of contemporary culture to be accommodated by the commonly-owned public resources whenever that is ethnically and economically feasible.” 9 While the court refused to distinguish between types of music — “one man’s Bread is the next man’s Bach” — it held that it was “in the public’s best interest to have all segments represented.”10 However, since 1977 the FCC has established that it would allow market forces to determine the broadcast station’s format.11 Furthermore, deregulation of the airwaves at the end of the Carter Administration and beginning of the Reagan Administration eliminated the 1971 Ascertainment Primer and the Renewal Primer that the court relied upon in Citizens Committee, creating less stringent requirements for license applications and renewals.12

While the FCC no longer concerns itself with the content of broadcasts, there is still the question of whether the specter of localism should influence the FCC’s approval of the KTRU sale. In this paper, I will address the concerns of localism as they apply in FCC regulations, and specifically look at Rice University’s recommendation in its Opposition to Petition to Deny that Internet radio over cellular phones serve as an adequate substitute for FM radio.13

II. Localism on the Radio

A. How Does Localism Apply?

1. Localism and KTRU

The Commission has in the past recognized localism as an important part of its charge. In its recent Report on Localism, the FCC has called the concept of localism “a cornerstone of broadcast regulation.” 14 As Friends of KTRU pointed out in its Petition to Deny, this localism mandate extends not just to the availability of a radio signal in a local community, but rather to the ability of that community to transmit issues of local importance over the airwaves and provide “their own media for local expression.”15 Indeed, the Commission has held that “broadcasters are obligated to operate their stations to serve the public interest — specifically, to air programming responsive to the needs and issues of the people in their communities of license.16 From the perspective of FCC rhetoric, KTRU supporters are in a proper position to argue that transferring the license would result in an important loss of local music and media. KTRU programs such as the Local Show, MK Ultra, Vinyl Frontier, Genetic Memory, and the Revelry Report showcase local artists and discuss issues specific to the Houston music community that cannot be found elsewhere on the local airwaves.17 Furthermore, KTRU also provides minority-oriented programing, such as Navrang, which focuses on music from the Indian subcontinent, and Africana, which focuses on music from the African diaspora. In a city where the Nigerian ex-patriot population totals more than 80,000 and more than 4 percent of the entire city population was born in Asia, these shows provide for the local community in ways that other FM stations do not.18 As the Commission instructs, “[t]he principle of localism requires broadcasters to take into account all significant groups within their communities when developing balanced, community-responsive programming, including those groups with specialized needs and interests.”19 These niche shows, with their local DJs, certainly are community-responsive. On the other hand, not one single program will be added to the station after the sale that will be specific to the local Houston community, only adding syndicated and national shows like BBC World News, the Diane Rehm Show, Fresh Air With Terry Gross, BBC World Have Your Say, Talk of the Nation, The World, Beutche Welle Newslink Plus, Tell Me More, and The Story.20 Given the comparison between the station offerings before and after the sale, it seems like the transfer could be denied on localism grounds. However, the Commission has not always applied its ideals of localism in a strict manner.

2. Localism as applied by the FCC and Media Bureau

While rhetoric and written policy by the Commission has emphasized the importance of localism in broadcasting, this importance has not always transferred into enforceable rules. For example, in the case of the assignment of a license of a noncommercial educational station WQEX(TV), a coalition of public-interest groups petitioned to deny the application on the ground that proposed assignee’s broadcasts “would consist almost entirely of sales presentations, with little or no noncommercial local content.” 21 However, the Commission refused to consider the argument, explaining that “the courts and Commission have repeatedly rejected arguments that would require intrusion into the format choices of broadcast licensees.”22 While WQEX concerned application of television license, the FCC Media Bureau has applied similar rationale to FM radio licenses. In the case of C-SPAN’s application for assignment of an FM radio license, some listeners objected to assigning the license because it would change “WDCU(FM)’s current jazz format to a format dedicated primarily to public affairs and news programming.” 23 Other objectors argued that the grant of application was not in the public interest “because C-SPAN’s proposed national programming does not the problems, needs and interests of the [local community].24 However, the Media Bureau letter rebutted these arguments, stating that the Commission “‘has had the appropriately limited role of facilitating the development of the public broadcasting system rather than determining the content of its programming,’” and that under well-established precedent, rather than having to actually demonstrate how it responds to the community needs, “an applicant is required to provide only a brief narrative description of its proposed community issue-responsive service.”25 In the end, the Commission approved the license. Indeed, in a this case concerning sacrificing a music station for news, with similar arguments about localism and public interest, the FCC has made its position clear, leaving KTRU supporters with little legal recourse. However, comparing application in cases with FCC rhetoric still provides a mixed message.

3. FCC Report and Rhetoric on Localism

The FCC’s 2008 Report On Broadcast Localism And Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking spends several dozen pages lamenting the problem of a lack of localism in the broadcast spectrum. Specifically, it identified the problem of broadcasters failing to serve the interests of local communities in developing and promoting local artists and in fostering musical genres.26 The report also addressed the issue of licensees grossly overstating the amount of locally oriented news programming that they offer by including commercials, weather, sports, entertainment, video news releases, and redundancy, with locally produced public affairs programming almost entirely absent.27 Furthermore, the report found that significant groups within communities were not being taken into account by broadcasters when attempting to apply the principle of localism.28

FCC Commissioners have personally expressed concern about trends against localism in the broadcast marketplace. In an address to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps lamented the “homogenization and monotonous nationalized music at the expense of local and regional talent,” and proposed a system where a certain percent of programming is locally or independently produced.29 Former FCC Commissioner Rachelle Chong even used her Twitter feed to state support for KTRU and concern about the sale.30 So while past cases may not give much hope to KTRU supporters, FCC reports and statements from past and current commissioners may put enough pressure on the Media Bureau to take a hard look at localism concerns in the license transfer. However, in its Opposition to Petition to Deny, Rice University offered an alternative to assuage concerns about losing a unique and local source on the radio: Internet radio.

B. Is Internet Radio An Adequate Replacement for FM Radio?

In its Petition to Deny, KTRU stated that Web radio is not an adequate alternative to FM broadcast because it is not available in the car. Rice contends that this “ignores the increasing available of Web radio via cell phone.” 31 However, there are technological, monetary, and legal concerns as to whether Web radio over cell phones can replace FM radio for listeners.

1. Technological and Monetary Concerns

As of a Nov. 2010 report by Canalys, the most popular smartphone in the United States is the Apple iPhone, which has a 26.2 percent share of the U.S. market.32 The iPhone is currently available only on the AT&T network.33 AT&T’s high use, DataPro plan provides 2GB of data for $25 per month, and $10 for every additional 1GB.34 The average radio stream is 128 kilobits per second, equaling 16 kilobytes per second, equaling 57.6 megabytes per hour. By this math, it would take approximately 34.7 hours of listening to the radio per month to exceed the set data allotment by AT&T and incur additional charges. Merely a bit more than one hour of radio via an iPhone per day would use more data than what AT&T foresees in its highest use plan. In a city where the average commute is around 28 minutes, it is not difficult to imagine someone spending more than 34.7 hours listening to the radio in the car over the period of a month.35 Therefore, in addition to the one-time cost of purchasing an iPhone 4 for $199, or iPhone 3GS for $99, a regular KTRU listener would spend $25 per month to listen in the car, and an avid listener would spend $35 or more per month, meaning $300 or $420 per year. At the high end, this would require the average American to spend 15 percent more on entertainment than the current average annual expenditure of $2,698.36 This additional spending may be cost restrictive for many listeners. On the other hand, one can buy an FM radio for the one-time cost of $9.99.37 While Rice University may have an optimistic view about the ability of Web radio over cell phones to replace FM radio, crunching the numbers reveals that the hardware investment and price of use may make access overly cost restrictive for former KTRU fans. Unless the university is willing to help pay for listeners’ new cell phone bills, it may have an ill-informed perspective on current Internet costs and availability.

2. Legal Concerns

Even if there were not a monetary restriction on the ability of Web radio to replace FM radio, there is still a concern as to whether the FCC could justify eliminating a local source in the FM spectrum because it is otherwise available in the Internet. The Federal Communications Law Journal argues that inherent scarcity of the electromagnetic spectrum mandates that public interest obligations still remain enforced, stating that “despite the motley of other media outlets available-Internet radio, satellite radio, cable and digital television, and the like-the reason underlying such obligations in the first place is still present: electromagnetic spectrum is still scarce.”38 However, unlike various other media sources, radio’s pervasiveness in combination with its scarcity necessitates regulation. Furthermore, a strictly enforced market-based approach will only lead to, and arguably has led to, the creation of technology haves and have nots.39 Indeed, the cost restrictiveness of Web radio emphasizes the public interest charge of the FCC.

However, the FCC has addressed new technology supplanting old broadcasting in the realm of television. Currently, cable systems must carry the signals of local commercial and noncommercial broadcast stations in their local markets, while satellite carriage of local broadcasts is only required in Alaska and Hawaii.40 The FCC has expressed concern that in a small group of cases, the system used to define local broadcast stations results in the required carriage of the broadcast signal of an out-of-state station rather than an in-state station, potentially weakening localism.41 This concern demonstrates that the underpinnings of the must- carry requirements is the protection of localism. If Web radio, or satellite radio, were to serve as an adequate alternative to FM radio, the FCC should first create similar must-carry regulations for telecom providers and satellite radio companies to ensure that localism is not weakened. However, these regulations do not yet exist. Without guarantees of a must-carry provision, the same sort that were imposed on the cable industry as it replaced broadcast television, alternate radio sources cannot serve as a proper guarantors of localism.

III. Conclusion

The rise of Internet music and the perceived declining importance of radio, combined with an economic downturn, has led many universities to sell their college radio stations. The plight of Rice University’s KTRU has risen to prominence as fans and staff of the student-created and student-run, award-winning station have moved from usual campus protests to legal appeals in an attempt to stop the sale of the station. While FCC publications and commissioners’ rhetoric have emphasized the importance of localism, legal precedent does not give KTRU supporters much in the way of support. However, Rice University’s recommendation that the Internet serve as a proper alternative does not stand up to scrutiny. Monetary restrictions and lacking must- carry requirements prevent the Web from serving as a proper replacement for FM radio.

1 John Vorwald, Waning Support for College Radio Sets Off a Debate, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 5, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.coml2010/12/06Ibusiness/medial06stations.html.

2 Chris Gray, KTRU Sale Now Totally In FCC’s Hands, HOUSTON PRESS, Dec. 20, 2010, available at http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2010/12/ktru_sale_now_totally_in_fccs.php.

Save KTRU made it to the New York Times, BURN DOWN BLOG, Dec. 5, 2010, available at https://burndownblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/save-ktru-made-it-to-the-new-york-times/

BURN DOWN RICE!: Selling KTRU violates V2C, BURN DOWN BLOG, Aug. 17, 2010, available at https://burndownblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/burn-down-rice-selling-ktru- violates-the-v2c/

Ibid.

6 Steve Miller, KTRU radio station not named in generic Regents meeting agenda; descriptions must be specific under Open Meetings Act, TEXAS WATCHDOG, Aug. 19, 2010, available at http:// http://www.texaswatchdog.org/2010/08/-generic-agenda-item-for-regents-meeting-did-not-name-ktru/ 1282261406.column

7 Rice Opposition at 2.

Application for Assignment of License of WQXR-FM, Letter, 24 FCC Rcd 11761, 11762 (2009).

Citizens Committee to Keep Progressive Rock v. F.C.C., 478 F.2d 926, 929 (D.C. Cir., 1973).

10 Ibid. at 929.

11 Changes in Entertainment Formats of Broadcast Stations, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Docket No. 20682, 60 FCC 2d 858, 863 (1976).

12 In the Matter of Deregulation of Radio, Report and Order, Docket No. 79-219, 84 F.C.C.2d 968, 971 (1981).

13 Rice Opposition at 7.

14 Report on Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 1234 ¶ 5 (2008).

15 Petition, citing Utica Observer-Dispatch, Inc., 11 F.C.C. 383, 391-92 (1946).

16 Report on Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 1234 ¶ 6

17 Petition at 10.

18 Ibid. at 11; Reply to Oppositions at 10.

19 Report on Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 1234 ¶ 69.

20 Petition at 12-13.

21 Application of WQED Pittsburgh (Assignor) and Cornerstone Television, Inc. (Assignee) for Consent to the Assignment of LIcense of Noncommercial Educational Station WQEX(TV), Memorandum Opinion and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 202, 231 ¶57 (1999), vacated in part on other grounds by 15 FCC Rcd 2534 (2000).

22 Ibid. at 232 ¶ 57.

23 Application for Assignment of License of WDCU(FM), Letter, 12 FCC Rcd 15242, 15244 (1997).

24 Ibid. at 15244.

25 Ibid. at 15244-15245, citing Revision of Programming Policies and Reporting Requirements Related to Public Broadcasting Licensees, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 87 FCC 2d 716, 732 (1981); Report and Order, 98 FCC 2d 746 (1984); Request for Declaratory Ruling Concerning Programming Information in Broadcast Applications for Construction Permits, Transfers and Assignments, 3 FCC Rcd 5467, 5467-5468 (1988).

26 Report on Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 1234 ¶ 35.

27 Ibid. at ¶ 37.

28 Ibid. at ¶ 69.

29 FCC’s Copps Proposes Public Value Test for License Renewal, RADIO, Dec. 3, 2010, available at http://www.radiomagonline.com/fcc/fcc-copps-public-value-test-license-renewal-1203/ index.html.

30 Growing opposition to the KTRU sale OR Know Your FCC Commissioners,BURN DOWN BLOG, Nov. 15, 2010, available at https://burndownblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/growing- opposition-to-the-ktru-sale/.

31 Rice opposition at 7.

32 Tim Stevens, Canalys: iPhone becomes most popular smartphone in the US, Android continues as most popular OS, ENGADGET, Nov. 1, 2010, available at http://www.engadget.com/ 2010/11/01/canalys-iphone-becomes-most-popular-smartphone-in-the-us-andro/.

33 http://www.att.com/wireless/iphone/ (iPhone is configured to work only with the wireless services provided by AT&T.)

34 http://www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans/data-plans.jsp.

35 Stephen Ohlemacher, Believe it or not, average communting time drops, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Aug. 30, 2006, available at http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/ 4152068.html.

36 How The Average U.S. Consumer Spends Their Paycheck, VISUAL ECONOMICS, available at http://www.visualeconomics.com/how-the-average-us-consumer-spends-their-paycheck.

37 http://www.amazon.com/Sony-ICF-S10MK2-Pocket-Radio-Silver/dp/B00020S7XK

38 Deliberative Democracy on the Air: Reinvigorate Localism – Resuscitate Radio’s Subversive Past, 63 Fed. Comm. L.J. 141, 188.

39 Ibid. at 190. 40 Report on Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 1234 ¶ 47, 48. 41 Ibid. at ¶ 49.

 

Fearing a Houston without KTRU

Truly, the children are our future.

Thank you Musically Oblivious 8th Grader.

Rice University sells KTRU, claims to promote public arts

The other day, I received a Rice University news release in my inbox with the title: “Rice University launches public art initiative [...]“

Really? Launches public art initiative? Whatever could it be? Maybe Rice was launching a 50,000 watt transmission of musical genres and styles that cannot be heard anywhere else on the local spectrum? Wait, Rice already does that. It is called KTRU. And what could be more artsy than the eclectic and unique songs that would fill the KTRU repertoire?

But apparently, Rice thinks that three random works around campus is public art. The works aren’t bad, but I question how public they are. Parking at Rice is difficult enough, even for those of us who know the campus. And thanks to the changes in parking policy, there is not even free parking on campus.  On the other hand, KTRU is available to anyone with an FM radio.

Indeed, while these installations may be nice, they are quite limited.

This one is called paraMuseum: Environmental Exigencies by Charles Mary Kubricht. It is four leaves.

Charles Mary Kubricht thinks of the Rice campus as some sort of “tree museum.” These four panels, according to the Rice press release, “reflect her interest in how humans actively create and measure experience, perception, meaning and the fate of the natural environment.”

At the rate things are going, Rice will be a museum for student expression, and unqiue and local art. Perhaps in 50 years, someone will have an installation of photographs documenting the glory of local programming and the grand history of KTRU.

But at least that one is in the Brochstein Pavilion, which is reasonably easy to find and access. Not so much can be said for the second work:

Aurora Robson's "Lift" is a huge spherical sculpture, made of more than 9,000 discarded plastic bottles.

This looks kinda cool, is apparently supposed to create “a sense of the ‘cosmic and astronomical’ among the daily regimen of bench presses and treadmills,” in the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center.  That is nice, but it is even less accessible to the public than the previous work. This ball hangs from the ceiling of the new Rec Center, which is limited to members of the Rice community.  So while “faculty, staff and retirees, and graduate students of Rice University as well [...] their spouse/domestic partner[s]” may enjoy this dangling décollage, the rest of the public will have to catch glimpses through the window as they run the outer loop.

And speaking of glimpsing through the window, the final work:

 

Leo Villareal's "Radiant Pathway" contains 92 LED light tubes, each of which have 20 pixels capable of displaying 16 million different colors. The changing light sequences are never repeated.

The non-repetition inherent in this work [edit: which resides in the BioScience Research Collaborative] certainly is an artistic marvel. However, Rice claims that it is a public work because people can see it through a window. University Art Director Molly Hubbard calls it a new era of public art “outside the hedges.”Apparently a work inside a building that you can see through the window is “outside the hedges.” But you know what else at Rice provided art for the Houston community outside the hedges? KTRU. And while Radiant Pathway is only on from 7 a.m. until midnight, KTRU transmits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While Rice claims to launch a public art initiative, it does so while eliminating one of the best sources of free, easy to access, public art in the city of Houston: KTRU Rice radio.

I do not like it when people accuse various politicians or institutions as being Orwellian. It is usually used in the sense of someone saying something that means the exact other. For example, the Healthy Forests Initiative allowed for private logging companies to cut down trees. It is probably more accurate to claim such actions are Doublespeak, or merely simple politicking. If you are doing one thing that people don’t like, claim you are doing the exact opposite.

Or course, jokes about the Orwellian nature of the Rice administration are no new thing (pdf: Rice Thresher Orwellian Cartoon):

Rice University in 1984. Another classic Dan Derozier cartoon

So if 91.7 FM turns to classical music, which you can already get on 88.7 FM, and that source of unique, eclectic musical art from Houston and around the world goes silent, don’t worry: Rice is launching a public art initiative by placing three works of art on its campus.

And that totally balances out.

A David Brooks column about the Rice KTRU Sale

Yesterday, the New York Times contained an article about universities selling their radio stations, notably Rice University and KTRU. Of course, I wrote a blog thing about it, including hypotheticals about what various New York Times columnists would write about the matter. However, one very important columnist was missing.

 

Bohemian bourgeois find truth on Facebook.

 

David Brooks has a special place in this whole thing. Not only is he one of the utterly worst New York Times columnists, but he is the commencement speaker at Rice University this year. So it is only appropriate that he write a full column about the KTRU sale.

Here it is, a fake David Brooks column about the Rice University KTRU sale:

Sometimes you make stuff up.

Yesterday evening I was interviewing Rice University President David Leebron in preparation of my commencement speech there, and we were talking about the university selling the student radio station KTRU. His voice was nasal and fatigued, and he was taking those little sighs that people take when they’re frustrated with being criticized even though the criticisms don’t have any actual effect on the result.

Out of the blue I asked, “Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?”

Leebron’s tone changed. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I continued to list random names and philosophical concepts, hoping he would react to one and I could write a column about it: “C.S. Lewis, Gestalt Theory, Steven Quartz, Ewan Moontz, Friedrich Schleiermacher, bobo chic, Rick Warren…”

I went on for a bit and he stopped me at Milton Friedman.

“I generally don’t agree with his views,” President Leebron said. “For example, there is certainly such a thing as a free lunch, Rice got one by secretly selling KTRU. We get the proceeds while KTRU did all the work.”

As part of my contract with the New York Times, I’ll take this point to state a thesis that disagrees with a notable conservative icon but agrees with someone in power in a way that gets the result I wanted anyways.

Unlike 90 percent of America, I am cheering for the sale. This is widely cast as a students v. administration conflict — the powerful Board of Trustees against the ragtag KTRU community. If this were a movie, KTRU’s arguments before the FCC about localism and education would be successful, and KTRUvians would be weeping with joy.

But this is why life is not a movie. The Board is not always wrong. They do not always exploit student efforts without any discussion. The Rice administration — to the extent that they are paragons of power, which I dispute — won through hard work.

For the first time in university history, the rich and powerful work harder for student interests than the students. KTRU supporters would have gotten what they wanted if only they had worked harder, even if the university was keeping the sale secret. And even though I have never had a job besides working for various upper crust publications, I have no problem lecturing about hard work.

This lack of labor by university students explains why non-profit radio licenses are now essentially dominated by Christian religious stations and NPR.

Notice the dichotomy between the two remaining systems. Blue State NPR asks its listeners for money, while Red State Christian stations only ask their listeners to pray and be better people. Even though I was born in Toronto and have worked almost exclusively in Washington D.C. and New York City, I am an expert on the differences between Red States and Blue States. And what’s the deal with airline food?

You can look back on the history of the KTRU sale many ways. It was callous, at least, to call students lucky in any context of this secret sale. The Rice Board and President Leebron could have done something wonderful if they had engaged students and the KTRU community at the beginning. They didn’t. And it is obviously true that this secrecy played a role in the opposition to the KTRU sale.

But Neibaour wouldn’t listen to KTRU. How do I know? Because I’m on the New York Times opinion page, so I must be right. Sure, I generalize and make stuff up in a way that may sound good if you already support my positions but is utterly lacking in hard facts.

And the same could be said about Rice’s justifications for the KTRU sale. Therefore, it was only appropriate that Rice University invite me, David Brooks, to be the 2011 Commencement Speaker.

 

Save KTRU made it to the New York Times

Check out your Monday New York Times Business Day section, there is an article about Rice University selling KTRU! Looks like the Save KTRU movement finally made it to the big time. Maybe the story will make it to the opinion page as well!

Bob Herbert would write about how selling KTRU, and shows like Africana, demonstrates that large universities do not care about important local and minority interests, and people who cannot afford portable online access. He would reference boomboxes.

Tom Friedman would write about how everything will be online anyways, and complain about how students want to remain on FM radios. He would note how much bandwidth it would take, and money it would cost, to listen to KTRU over an iPhone. However, Friedman would argue that the situation will improve in 6 months, and if it doesn’t then Rice should buy back KTRU.

Paul Krugman would talk about how the FCC no longer considers public welfare when regulating the public good that is the airwaves, and will extrapolate these facts to government as a whole.

Nicholas Kristof would write about some poor girl from India who made it big by having her music played on KTRU.

Charles Blow would look at the statistical correlation between the decline of college radio and the rise of college tuition.

Gail Collins would write some cutesy thing about her experiences in college and about how they really knew how to protest in the ’60s

Ross Douthat would equivocate.

Maureen Dowd would write a fictional dialogue where the board is Lady MacBeth and Leebron is MacBeth.

Anyways…

While the article is just a general, cursory look at the issues surrounding Rice University and Vanderbilt selling their student radio stations, it does recognize one of the distinct issues of the KTRU sale, notably that Rice did it in secret:

Despite obvious parallels between KTRU and WRVU, Chris Carroll, director of student media at Vanderbilt Student Communications, draws a stark contrast between the situations at the two universities. At Vanderbilt, he said, “what’s happening, really, is a big public discussion about is this a good idea or not, and there’s no conclusion to that yet.” Rice, he said, made the decision to sell KTRU behind closed doors — without student input.

At least Vanderbilt had the dignity to tell students that they were planning on selling the resource. As has been documented, Rice University tried everything possible to conceal the truth.

If Rice really needed to sell KTRU, then they could have made the arguments to the students. But Rice has yet to demonstrate in a factual study that selling KTRU will result in a greater benefit than the loss of all the benefits and value that KTRU had.

While KTRU supporters should be glad to see the story make it to the New York Times, the article does not mention another major point not only of supporters’ arguments, but legal arguments as well: KTRU was a gift and meant for education, not an asset to be sold for cash.

KTRU was created by Rice students. From its very beginning it was a student creation with little other input, financial or otherwise, from the university. Even the upgrade to 50,000 watts did not come at the expense of the university but was paid for by the late KRTS station as part of a FCC-mandated deal.

Rice has put little into KTRU, and seeks to bleed it for everything it is worth. Rice seeks to benefit not from its own labor, but from the labor of its students. If Rice students had not made KTRU so popular, it would not have been strong enough to mandate the 50,000 watts transmitter in the KRTS deal. This send a message to Rice students to not contribute to the university — after all, if you become too successful, they’ll just sell it for cash. But furthermore, it raises legal questions as well.

The KTRU radio station has an educational license. By selling KTRU, Rice is undermining this license, essentially turning the educational purpose into one of profit. Friends of KTRU raised this legal problem in its Petition to Deny:

It has long been Commission policy that the bedrock goal of any NCE license is to promote an educational program. Now, Rice and UHS propose to entirely undermine the educational purpose for which the license was originally granted in favor ofa cash-grab. Rice is effectively treating the KTRU License like any other university asset, and completely ignoring the Commission’s mandate that the license serve an educational purpose. Instead, Rice is seeking to profit from the sale of a license that was founded and operated by students, in order to pad the university budget.

Taking advantage of student efforts merely to line a pocketbook is not just slimy, it may be illegal as well. KTRU is supposed to exist for educational purposes. Rice tried to steal that education away without letting Rice students, or Houston, know.

Well here is to hoping that they get schooled before the FCC.

Secret Intern Hero of the KTRU-KUHF sale, and lucky students

As the battle to block the KTRU sale continues (or at least make it so miserable for Rice that the university gives KTRU $3 million to set up a proper online station and ground music presence just to get everyone to shut up), there will inevitably be unsung heroes.

As in all battles, some brave soul will recognize the higher cause and throw herself upon the sword of justice, sacrificing for the greater good and the RZA.

KTRU ain't nuthin' ta fuck wit

In this new batch of e-mails from the KTRU open records request, we learn the tale of the The Bravest Intern. (pdf: KTRU KUHF intern hero)

“she withdrew (we hope only temporarily) in part because of her loyalty to the opposition to the sale.”

Those are some good words to see. The sale masterminds think that KTRU supporters and Rice students will just roll over and capitulate. They think KTRU will not put up a fight. But we are fighting on the blogs, and we are fighting in the courts, and we are even fighting on their own turf. This one student laughed at KUHF and the Rice administration, and demonstrated that loyalty cannot be bought. There is no price high enough for student dignity.

Rice Vice President for Public Affairs Linda Thrane seems to think, again in that Dolores Umbridge tone, that Rice “constituencies” are merely ignorant about the matters at hand and need to be reminded that some “lucky students” will “really benefit” from the sale, because it will result in a few internships.

Perhaps Rice needs to be reminded that with KTRU, students are not the interns, they are the managers. KTRU was made by Rice students and run by Rice students. KTRU and its student leadership competes on the FM band with every other station, and often wins. But now, these students are being fired or demoted to internships.

KTRU offered leadership opportunities, radio experience, and personal expression for dozens of Rice students. Now there will be six Rice interns fetching coffee for the University of Houston.

Lucky them.

Lucky, to have a student-run station sold without notice or discussion. Lucky, to have unique and local music replaced by nationally syndicated wire. Lucky, to have students’ own shows replaced by internships for a few.

This isn’t lucky. This is shit. And it is about time Rice recognized it.

If Rice needs to sell KTRU, fine. KTRU supporters will stand in opposition and do whatever it takes to block the sale — that is a given. But at least Rice could see that this is not lucky for them. It is an awful, heart-wrenching experience in which the alma mater we knew and loved has stabbed us in the back. And the least that Rice can do is say, “Yes, we know it sucks, but we had to.” But they haven’t

Rice has not recognized that this sale is an attack on its own students. Instead, they think we should feel “lucky.” Lucky that dozens may suffer, and tens of thousands of radios go silent, so that half a dozen can get internships. Lucky.

And they haven’t even explained why. Does Rice really need the money? Was KTRU below some objective standard of student popularity or Arbitron rating? Did the board not like that many DJs were not students? Did the university fear on-air FCC violations?

Where is the financial study justifying this sale? Where is the hard evidence? There is none. The Board decided that KTRU wasn’t worth it, and so they threw out the students with the transmitter.

And the “constituencies” are supposed to feel lucky.

I feel lucky that I attended a university with people brave enough to withdraw from an internship in solidarity with KTRU.

So keep writing letters. With every records request, we see that University of Houston and Rice administrations receive and read letters in opposition. Show them that this one brave student is not the only one willing to stand up for KTRU.

Rice and UH were using Facebook to research KTRU’s station manager

“Who is Nick Schlossman?”

This one question is a nice little microcosm of the problems surrounding the KTRU sale. Schlossman filed the KTRU Open Record Request (disclosure: which I first drafted) with the University of Houston. UH forwarded this info to Rice University VP of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, to let her know that soon the UH-Rice communications concerning the KTRU sale would be opened to the public.

Her response: Who is Nicholas Schlossman?

UH Director of Media Relations provided what little info he could garnish from an unfriended Facebook page.

Perhaps if the Rice administrators had any connections with their students and campus, they would know who Schlossman was. They would know that he was a student at Jones College. They would know that he was a Rice Thresher copy editor. And most importantly, they would know that he was the KTRU Station Manager for two consecutive years. From Spring 2007 until Spring 2009, Schlossman was THE station manager for 91.7 FM KTRU Rice Radio.

Judging by Texas Watchdog and my own work, Rice initiated selling KTRU before Spring 2009. It is a testament to Rice’s failure of due diligence that it contemplated selling the station without even knowing who the station manager was. (pdf: Rice didnt know ktru station manager)

Rice VP of Public Relations did not know who the KTRU station manager was.

Certainly if Rice had spent some serious amount of time studying KTRU, they would have known who the station manager was. If Rice had actually determined whether the sale of the station would result in the positive outweighing the negative, then it would have at some point learned who Schlossman was.

After all, the station manager dictated how the station operated, what the station played, and overall station policy. If Rice thought that KTRU could be better used, then certainly it should have considered meeting with the station manager, if not talk to him directly. But instead, in the wake of the public outrage surrounding the KTRU sale, the man actually in control of the station was a complete mystery to Rice’s Vice President of Public Relations.

Maybe Rice simply didn’t care about station manger because it is a student position. Maybe Rice thought the station manager was irrelevant because the administrators honestly didn’t care about KTRU’s content. But in the end, Rice should have at least known the station manager as part of due diligence.

Until now, I assumed that Rice had files and communications explaining its justification of and rationality behind the KTRU sale. Unfortunately, I thought, these files would be hidden to records requests because Rice is a private university. However, this little revelation, this ignorance, this “Who is Nick Schlossman,” makes one doubt whether Rice properly researched and justified the KTRU sale.

If Rice is going to sell one of its most public and most well-known assets, it should know every little thing about it. But instead, Rice seems like one of those poor schmucks who sells an autographed baseball, thinking that Babe Ruth is a girl.

I assumed that Rice had some sort of plan that it didn’t want to release because it would reveal financial information, or demonstrate that Rice wanted to sell KTRU long before the public date, or show utter disregard for students. But in the end, maybe Rice just never did its research.

Rice University should hold itself to the same strict academic standards required of its students. If it cannot justify this sale, then the sale should not go through. And right now, Rice does not even know the base KTRU facts, so it resorts to the University of Houston doing Facebook research.

Rice didn't know its basic facts in the KTRU sale