Tag Archives: radio

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.

Growing opposition to the KTRU sale OR Know Your FCC Commissioners


Rachelle Chong: The Newest Face of the Save KTRU Movement?

Over the past week, there has been a spike in attention to the KTRU sale. This newfound spirit in opposition to the sale corresponds with Texas Watchdog’s release of their Open Records Request info. (KTRU has its own Open Records Request, which I wrote the first draft of.)

The info that Texas Watchdog was able to get from the University of Houston has revealed many interesting tidbits, such as the fact that it was a KTRU staffer who leaked the story, that Rice considered lying to KTRU to get info about the station, that UH and Rice actively kept KTRU references out of public meeting minutes, that there was outspoken questioning of the sale on the UH finance and administration committee that was not covered by any media outlet, that Rice had been planning a sale since about 2 years ago, and so forth.

I hope to comment on some of this later in the week.

However, one of the more interesting developments in the KTRU saga has been a newfound voice of support for keeping KTRU on the airwaves: Rachelle Chong

A former FCC commissioner cares!

Now, what makes her Tweet more important than, say, me, Evan tweeting? Well, you see Ms. Chong has some experience with the FCC — in that she was an FCC commissioner.

President Bill Clinton appointed Chong to the Federal Communications Commission, where she was the first Asian American to serve as an FCC commissioner. She is currently a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates private utilities in California, including telecommunications.

The fact that someone with direct experience serving as an FCC commissioner shows that KTRU has a chance. Someone whose job it was to regulate license transfers expressly opposes the KTRU sale. She can be outspoken on the matter because she no longer sits on the commission. However, there is no reason to believe that current members, with similar legal training and background, do not have the same view as her towards the KTRU sale — they probably just know better than to comment on a pending matter.

In fact, the biographies of current members give reason to hope.

Julius Genchowski has the sort of background that may be sympathetic to the KTRU sale

Current Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski, for example, was an Editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator. This sort of personal involvement in student media hints that he has the background to appreciate the unique broadcasting ability that KTRU has to offer, and may encourage him to take a second look at the transfer.

Copps has explicitly questioned consolidation at the expense of localism. This is good for KTRU.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps doesn’t have student media experience — at least not listed on his Wikipedia entry. However, he does have a strong opposition to media consolidation. In fact, he has explicitly raised the spectre of “public interest” when it comes to media transfer and consolidation.

“What public interest, what new competition, is enabled by encouraging the newspaper monopoly and the broadcasting oligopoly to combine? This decision further allows the already massive television networks to buy up even more local TV stations, so that they control up to an unbelievable 80 or 90 percent of the national television audience.

Where are the blessings of localism, diversity and competition here? I see centralization, not localism; I see uniformity, not diversity; I see monopoly and oligopoly, not competition.”

Phrases like “public interest” and “blessings of localism” are the sort of key words that will be the spearhead of a pro-KTRU legal argument. With a well-written motion to deny, Copps may see the KTRU sale as a line in the sand, a place where he could stop a purely local and unique station from becoming one of syndicated news reports and rehashed classical that gets played anyways. Maybe you should write a few letters of support for KTRU to demonstrate to Mr. Copps just how important this is. And you can do that by clicking this link right here that these words are part of.

Robert McDowell is a Republican with a soft spot for the arts.

Robert McDowell may not seem like the sort of FCC commissioner who would be sympathetic to KTRU. After all, he has spent time scaring up the ghosts of a return of the Fairness Doctrine, and that sort of paranoid attitude towards media regulation does not make him seem like the sort of guy who would stop a license transfer.

However, McDowell’s testimony in his nomination hearing before Senate painted a picture of a much more balanced thinker.

But the most interesting part of McDowell’s personal history is his former position as Chariman of the Board of the McLean Project for the Arts. The MPA has the self-proclaimed mission of:

“exhibit[ing] the work of emerging and established artists from the mid-Atlantic region; [promoting] public awareness and understanding of the concepts of contemporary art; and [offering] instruction and education in the visual arts.”

Compare this to the KTRU Mission:

“The mission of KTRU as a student organization and a 50,000 watt radio station is to educate the station membership, the greater Houston community, and the students of Rice University through its progressive and eclectic programming in the spirit of the station’s non-commercial, educational license. Musically, KTRU programming will endeavor to solely feature genres and/or artists who are unexposed, or unavailable on, the Houston commercial radio dial.”

Both organizations share a dedication to public education about the arts, and bring attention to emerging and established local artists. McDowell’s experience with the MPA may give him the background and understanding necessary to sympathize with KTRU’s legal appeals and encourage him to recognize that at times, the FCC does need to operate a stronger hand on license transfers. Indeed, it is not a Democratic or Republican position, but a position of promoting local arts for the public interest.

Mignon Clyburn has experience on a family-founded newspaper, the sort of experience that creates a gut reaction against media consolidation.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is used to regulating utilities. She previously served as the chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Washington Action Committee and is also a former chair of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. However, most importantly, she spent 14 years as the publisher and general manager of The Coastal Times.

The Coastal Times had a circulation of only about 5,500 (smaller than the Rice Thresher), but her experience on the paper has given her a great respect for the First Amendment, and an attitude that is much more willing than past “prudish” FCC members to stand up for speech.

Meredith Baker (daughter-in-law of James Baker III) attended the University of Houston for law school and opposes regulation even when the goal is fostering competition. She will likely be the greatest opponent to saving KTRU.

Meredith Baker went to UH Law and opposes Net Neutrality, a sign that she is deeply opposed to any sort of FCC interference. Screw that.


So there are your FCC commissioners. Things may seem tough and the KTRU sale may appear inevitable. However, a quick look at your actual FCC commissioners demonstrates that the situation is not as bleak as one may think. Several members have backgrounds in local media, and some have even explicitly questioned the trend of media consolidation at the expense of local programming and uniqueness. You can help them remember the importance of local media programming and the true meaning of public interest by writing the FCC and signing onto the KTRU letter. Your voice is especially important if you live within the KTRU broadcast zone. So speak up. All you have to do to save KTRU (or at least force Rice to appeal to the D.C. Circuit) is count to three.



Three commissioners.

And KTRU is saved.