KUOW licensee plans to buy rival KPLU

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Pacific Lutheran University, licensee of KPLU in Tacoma, Wash., announced Thursday the pending sale of the station to the University of Washington, which operates Seattle’s KUOW.

The University of Washington will pay $8 million for the station. With the sale, KPLU’s format of news and music will switch to all-music, continuing its current focus on jazz. The station will get new call letters, yet to be determined.

KUOW will take KPLU all-music to address the “significant crossover” in NPR content between the stations, it said.

“Approximately 65 hours per week of news and information programming currently heard on 88.5 also airs on KUOW,” the station said in a post explaining the move. “Evolving the format of 88.5 to all-music programming gives listeners two distinct public radio stations – one for jazz and the other for National Public Radio and locally produced content.”

In a Facebook post, Pacific Lutheran University President Thomas Krise said the move would unite the stations “for the good of the community and the listening public.”

“The Seattle/Tacoma market is one of the few metropolitan areas that continue to have competing public radio stations, and KPLU is one of only a remaining few public radio stations nationwide that maintain a split format between news and music,” he said in the post. “Bringing the resources of these two stations together will enable listeners to have dedicated stations, which is a structure that is being adopted across the public broadcasting landscape nationwide.”

“With public broadcasters facing ever-leaner budgets, it also makes sense for the two stations to pursue a shared vision for developing and funding independently produced content about the issues that matter to our region,” he added.

KUOW said it will hire several staffers for the all-music station. Krise added that the school will not lay off KPLU staff for the time being and that “KUOW management has assured us that they will give careful consideration to all KPLU applicants.”

The deal is expected to close next year after receiving FCC approval.

Update: This article has been updated with details from Krise’s Facebook post.

Questions, comments, tips? tyler@current.org or @tjfalk

  • Aaron Read

    I think it speaks volumes that a story this big no longer elicits a single comment. :(

    • Though there are no comments here, there was quite a bit of notice on Twitter. We’re working on a follow-up story.

      • Aaron Read

        Glad to hear you’re doing a followup to this! FWIW, I also noticed quite a lot of posts on KUOW’s, KPLU’s and the PLU’s President’s Facebook pages. Most are quite upset, it seems. I’m just a bit surprised there’s nobody in the industry talking about it HERE on Current. (shrugs) Perhaps they’re finding enough of an outlet elsewhere. C’est la vie.

        BTW, Tom Taylor and Ken Mills are raising the excellent question about what’s going to happen to KPLU’s extensive FM translator network. Four of the seven are already commercial-band signals (including one 250 watt big one that’s on the west side of Puget Sound but aimed straight at downtown Seattle) and thus eligible to sold to AM stations as part of the “AM revitalization effort”. Actually, if the remaining three could be moved to the commercial band via minor change filings ahead of the revitalization windows, then they could become eligible as well. (translators in the non-comm band at the revitalization window are not eligible)

        • Hi Aaron — this is addressed in the upcoming story, but so far it sounds as if KUOW is planning to use all of the signals it will acquire and has no plans to sell any.