Contract signed to preserve Salt Lake public radio news station

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Wasatch Public Media, a new nonprofit established just 10 weeks ago to buy KCPW-FM in Salt Lake City and keep it a public radio news station, now has the signed contract.

The nail-biting part of the deal occurred May 27, when Wasatch submitted a $2.4 million financial package for the purchase, and the next day, when KCPW’s current licensee, Community Wireless of Park City, gave Wasatch a seven-day extension to complete negotiations on the asset purchase agreement.

Community Wireless was financially strapped and opted to sell its Salt Lake operations.

FCC approval of the license transfer, the final step in completing the transaction, is expected to take four months.

In 60 days, the fledgling Wasatch Public Media raised almost $1 million to acquire KCPW-FM and continue running it as an NPR news station, says President Ed Sweeney. The Wasatch fundraising includes $815,000 in contributions for the purchase, plus $150,000 from a spring pledge drive that goes toward operating costs. Donors demonstrated that they understood the difference between the capital and operating cost appeals, Sweeney said. At least half of the listeners who pledged made additional donations to the capital campaign.

Wasatch will use $200,000 of the capital fundraising for its down payment and cover the rest of the purchase price with a loan from the National Cooperative Bank in Washington, D.C. That loan is bolstered in turn by another piece of financing from the Public Radio Fund. The Fund provided $620,000 — its first-ever loan — to be reserved for four years of interest payments on the co-op bank’s loan.

“Without that piece, NCB wouldn’t have been able to do the financing,” says Erik Langner, director of acquisitions for Public Radio Capital. PRC set up the Public Radio Fund in October with help from the Calvert Social Investment Foundation, the Ford Foundation, NPR and other investors.

“I think it’s good that the first loan is used in such a dramatic way,” Langner told Current. The outcome “embodies” the reasons for creating the fund, he said. If Wasatch hadn’t been able to swing the deal, a religious broadcaster was next in line to buy the frequency.

Wasatch Public Media, founded by Sweeney after Community Wireless announced its plan to sell KCPW, signed a letter of intent March 28 to purchase the station. The agreement gave Wasatch 60 days to put together the financing and allowed it to raise funds on air.

Sweeney praised PRC for its help and Community Wireless board member Joe Wrona and board President Bill Mullen for their “very professional, very upfront” cooperation.

Community Wireless is simultaneously selling KCPW’s sister AM station for $1.3 million to Immaculate Heart Radio, a chain based in Fair Oaks, Calif., comprising 20 Catholic stations in California, Nevada and New Mexico.

Correction: An earlier online version of this article incorrectly named the Community Wireless president.

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