WMFE-TV in Orlando, Fla., the former PBS flagship that had been set for sale to religious broadcasters, has a new buyer. The University of Central Florida announced June 21 that it plans to purchase WMFE for $3.3 million.
The boards of UCF and WMFE, a community licensee that also operates a radio station, must approve the sale contract before it goes to the FCC.
UCF, also in Orlando, played a role in preserving PBS service to the market last year when WMFE moved to sell its TV operation and focus on its public radio station. UCF partnered with Brevard Community College in Cocoa to convert WBCC, a pubTV station licensed to the community college, into a full-service PBS station broadcasting as WUCF.
The partnership will end when UCF’s purchase of WMFE is approved. The Cocoa station will broadcast non-PBS programs, said Christine Dellert, spokesperson for WUCF.
In April 2011, WMFE President Jose Fajardo announced that his pubcasting operation was casting off its TV station with a sale to Community Educators of Orlando Inc., a local nonprofit affiliated with Texas-based religious broadcaster Daystar Television. That deal, which generated more than 450 comments to the FCC, hit a roadblock at the commission, and WMFE withdrew from the sale in March. The FCC questioned whether the Daystar-affiliated operator met its criteria for localism and educational programming.
WMFE received another bid from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations, but turned it down last month (Current, May 14).
“WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests,” the seller and buyer said in a joint statement.
WMFE’s Channel 24 will broadcast from WUCF TV’s studio at the university with leased master control space in WMFE’s building, about five minutes away from UCF, Dellert said.