Friendly takeover of Spokane’s KSPS

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When the Spokane Public School District was considering selling its PBS station, KSPS, it did not have to look far to find an interested party.

On April 10, the school board voted to sell the station for $1 million to the Friends of KSPS, its partner in raising funds for the station since its founding in 1972. The transaction is expected to close in September pending FCC approval.

The two groups had been discussing a possible license transfer for about six years, said Mark Anderson, assistant superintendent for the school district. Dwindling state support over the past year expedited a final decision, he said.

“The question we asked was, ‘Who can move the station forward and is in the best position to meet future challenges?’” said Anderson. “And the Friends of KSPS were the best choice.”

The school board gave its full support to selling to the Friends of KSPS even though the unorthodox deal actually carries a cost for the district. The agreed-on purchase price is $1 million, but the sales agreement also accounted for a $1.6 million loan from the friends’ group that had paid for capital improvements and studio upgrades since 1993. The board agreed to apply $1 million of the purchase price toward repaying that debt, in addition to a cash payment of $642,500.

The school district also committed $222,000 annually over five years to cover production costs. The payments will provide a steady stream of revenue to KSPS under its new owners, said Gary Stokes, executive director of the Friends of KSPS. He credited the school board for giving the new licensee a fighting chance to make it.

“Because we’ve worked together as partners for so long, they were interested in making sure the new enterprise had the best chance it could to succeed,” Stokes said. “And this agreement puts us in a position to get off to a great start.”

KSPS reaches a potential 2 million homes throughout the Inland Northwest and Canada. About half of the viewership comes from Canada, where the KSPS is carried on cable.

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This article was first published in Current, April 29, 2013.

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