KPLU advisory board votes against sale

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The advisory board of KPLU in Tacoma, Wash., voted unanimously Monday to oppose the sale of the station to the University of Washington, The Seattle Times reports.

Pacific Lutheran University, KPLU’s licensee, announced earlier this month its intent to sell the station for $8 million, pending FCC approval. KUOW, the University of Washington’s NPR station, plans to switch KPLU from its news/jazz format to all music.

The deal upset listeners and left KPLU staffers shocked and in employment limbo. According to the Times, about 200 community members and station staffers gathered to voice their frustrations about the sale to the advisory board before the vote.

But the board can do little to stop the sale. “Before the vote, KPLU council president Stephen Tan reminded the crowd, which was packed into a conference room at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, that ‘we need to recognize our limited authority as an advisory council,’ which doesn’t have the power to scuttle the deal,’” the Times reported. “But he led the council in a vote to send a letter to PLU in the next day or two expressing consternation about the sale.”

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the station’s licensee didn’t consult the board before agreeing to the sale.

A petition opposing the sale had over 1,100 supporters as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Times reported that KPLU GM Joey Cohn said at the meeting that the station is in a strong financial position and that a forthcoming audit shows the station is “$389,000 in the black.” The station ran deficits of about $60,000 in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, according to financial documents posted on its website.

PLU told Current that the deal had nothing to do with the university’s financials. The school has operated in the black in recent years, according to financial documents. However, Standard & Poor‘s Ratings Services downgraded the school’s bonds from a BBB rating to a BBB- rating earlier this year, the service’s lowest investment grade rating.

“The downgrade reflects our view of PLU’s weakened overall financial profile, characterized by continued operating deficits on a generally accepted accounting principle basis, as well as a decrease in financial resource ratios, particularly expendable resources relative to debt,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Margaret McNamara in a press release at the time. “The downgrade also reflects several years of enrollment and demand pressure, shown by decreasing headcount and freshman applications.”

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