PRC recommends format switch for Delmarva Public Radio

A consultant’s report released Thursday afternoon recommends that the Salisbury University Foundation negotiate a deal with another public broadcaster to operate both of its Delmarva Public Radio stations as music stations, dropping the NPR News format now airing on WSDL 90.7 FM in Ocean City, Md. The foundation, licensee of WSDL and WSCL 89.5FM in Salisbury, Md., has been covering financial losses at the stations for three of the last four fiscal years -- most notably covering a loss of more than $150,000  in 2008 -- and faces increased capital expenses in relocating the stations' studios from a university building that's  set to be demolished.  The Delmarva stations closed fiscal 2010 in the black with about $25,000 in net income, but the overall financial picture and increased competition from other NPR stations in the market prompted the foundation to reconsider how the station is managed and financed. “It was a good opportunity for us to take a look at the stations and what’s happened over the last 25 years and what will happen in the future,” said Jason E. Curtin, interim assistant director of the Salisbury University Foundation. “We’re trying to find the best way to serve the area and be good stewards of the stations that we hold.” The foundation retained Public Radio Capital, the Colorado-based consultancy specializing in public radio signal expansion and preservation, to analyze the stations' performance and recommend options for operating them in the future. According to Arbitron’s fall 2012 survey, Salisbury/Ocean City is the 140th largest market in the U.S. with a 12-plus listening population of 329,700.

WXEL staff

Closure, finally, in sale of Palm Beach pubTV station

Eight years after the “For Sale” sign first went up on WXEL-TV/FM, the transaction resolving the future of pubcasting in Florida’s affluent Palm Beach region finally closed last month. WXEL-TV, which split from its radio sibling in a 2011 sale to American Public Media Group’s Classical South Florida, is to be transferred to a nonprofit headed by the execs who have managed the station through years of uncertainty...

University regents call time-out on KUT signal expansion

One of public radio’s biggest split-format stations, Austin’s KUT, is pursuing a signal expansion that follows a familiar playbook for strengthening audience service: buying a new channel to air music while dedicating its flagship signal to news programming. But for this station serving a city that makes weirdness a point of civic pride, there’s a distinct difference to its ambitions to become a dual-station operator. It will put rock and alternative music, not classical, on its new signal; 90.7 MHz, the FM channel that has served KUT’s news and music audiences for decades, will go all-news. That’s if and when the University of Texas Board of Regents, the governing board of KUT’s licensee, approves the proposed $6 million purchase of 98.9 MHz, a commercial frequency that’s now broadcasting classic rock hits under the call letters KXBT. The regents took only five minutes to discuss the purchase during their July 11 meeting, then postponed a vote that would have cleared the way for KUT to seal the deal.

Tiny audience, debt service put Tacoma signal in jeopardy

Public Radio Capital is working to keep an FM station it owns in Tacoma, Wash., on the air after June 30, when Seattle’s KUOW will stop programming it. In six years of operating as an internationally focused alternative to KUOW, KXOT failed to attract enough new listeners to support its operations. PRC is negotiating with National Cooperative Bank, which backed the brokerage’s $5 million purchase of KXOT-FM in 2003. Payments on the loan have stopped while PRC tries to come up with a plan for KXOT. When KUOW began managing the Tacoma station in 2006, its leaders hoped to buy it.

David Oliphant of Pittsburgh Foundation

Foundations favor grantees with digital, local news chops

By giving two seminal news-related grants last year, the Pittsburgh Foundation broke from what chief executive Grant Oliphant described as the foundation’s history of “generic support” for public media. Answering the call from the Knight Foundation for matching grants to address gaps in local news coverage ...

In Pittsburgh, a broker turns operator

News/jazz WDUQ-FM will be sold to a joint partnership between another Pittsburgh pubradio station, WYEP, and a new local nonprofit established by Public Radio Capital. Left out of the sale are Scott Hanley, g.m. of WDUQ, and his staff and supporters, who mounted a bid to preserve jazz music programming. Their aspirations conflicted with those of local funders who pushed for greater emphasis on news. The $6 million deal, announced Jan. 14, opens a new chapter for WDUQ, established by Duquesne University in 1937 and put up for sale a year ago.

What’s the best use, if any, for KXOT in Seattle/Tacoma?

Seattle news/talk station KUOW is reevaluating its plans for an FM signal it’s been leasing in Tacoma, Wash., after a feasibility study revealed that prospective donors weren’t inclined to back a capital campaign to buy the station.

Bond market expected to help with pubcasting expansion

The bond market is offering new capital financing options for public broadcasting this week with the expected sale of $6.5 million in tax-exempt bonds for Colorado Public Radio's expansion. [After this article was published, the entire lot of bonds sold in one day at 5.8 percent.]

Other pubcasters will follow. Nashville Public Radio plans to sell about $3 million in bonds in March to cover purchase of a second station in town. And the new nonprofit Maryland Public Radio aims to finance the $5 million purchase of Baltimore's WJHU. Pubcasters have 10 to 15 borrowings under review at George K. Baum & Co., the investment bank working closely with Public Radio Capital, a nonprofit that is shepherding potential borrowers into the bond market.