Texas Tech Public Media in Lubbock will acquire PBS station KCOS in El Paso, Texas, in an asset purchase agreement announced by the stations Monday.
The board of regents of Texas Tech University, which holds the license for joint licensee Texas Tech Public Media, authorized the deal Thursday. KCOS’ nine full-time staffers will become Texas Tech Public Media employees but remain in El Paso, which is about 350 miles from Lubbock. KCOS GM Emily Loya will become station manager of KCOS as part of the deal.
No significant amount of money exchanged hands as part of the deal, though the contract shows a nominal $1,000 purchase price, Texas Tech Public Media GM Paul Hunton told Current.
The deal is awaiting FCC approval. Texas Tech Public Media is hoping to onboard KCOS staff by Oct. 1, he said.
The agreement allows the stations to “look to the future as more of a broad regional network rather than just individual stations in small rural communities,” Hunton told Current.
It also combines the resources of the stations and allows them to “think more broadly about how we create content for our region, how we do development, how we reach out to even underwriters,” he said. “Now we have basically two markets that we can actually expand anyone’s reach in.”
The stations have a vision of covering “more regional issues in a more journalistic fashion,” he said. “Obviously, that’s where things are going. We’ve seen over the last three to four years NPR stations who are highly invested in local journalism, their ratings, their engagement, all of those numbers have really taken off.”
Donors will be able to continue to donate directly to KCOS or to Texas Tech Public Media, he said.
KCOS, which is licensed to an independent nonprofit, approached Texas Tech Public Media in late 2017 about a merger, Loya said. The station’s board decided about four years ago that KCOS needed to partner with another station, she said. KCOS’ funding from CPB has been in jeopardy because it has fallen short of CPB’s minimum requirement for nonfederal financial support. It received a waiver in 2016 to continue receiving a CSG.
Being acquired by Texas Tech “positions us to do more than just small, incremental changes but actually reposition to make significant or transformational changes in the way we run our operations and serve our community,” Loya said.
The acquisition would expand Texas Tech Public Media’s coverage from about 387,000 households to over 1.4 million, Texas Tech CFO Noel Sloan told the board.
If the acquisition proceeds, Sloan said, Texas Tech Public Media would be eligible for a one-time CPB implementation grant of up to $750,000 and about $1.5 million from CPB over three years for TV stations that consolidate operations. The funds would offset any expenses incurred by Texas Tech in the acquisition, Sloan said.