Public Radio Capital rebrands, launches new projects 

Pubmedia consulting company Public Radio Capital has rebranded as Public Media Company and announced a pair of upcoming projects that reflect its desire to expand its client base. The 12-year-old Denver-based operation announced the name change April 22, along with a website redesign. Public Media Company will also grow its operations with Channel X, an online marketplace for public media video content, and the Public Media Database, a performance-metric platform for stations. “The scope of our work has broadened pretty dramatically,” said CEO Marc Hand. Public Media Company had been working with joint licensees and pubTV stations for years before its name change.

Foundation to sell 87-year old commercial classical radio station

KDB in Santa Barbara, Calif., one of the few remaining commercial classical radio stations, has been put up for sale by the foundation that has been operating it at six-figure losses for several years. Directors of the Santa Barbara Foundation, which has owned the license to broadcast on 93.7 FM for the past decade,  voted unanimously to sell the station, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. The station broadcasts on a commercial frequency, but the foundation opted to retain Public Radio Capital, which specializes in signal expansion for noncommercial public radio stations, to broker the sale. “As much as we love KDB, it isn’t our core mission,” said Ron Gallo, foundation c.e.o., during a public meeting at which the sale was announced. The meeting was “attended by a who’s who of the South Coast arts scene,” according to the Independent’s news account, and the mood in the room was “tense.”

Redefining public media for the future

Public media is made up of hundreds of storefronts in communities large and small, each of which has a unique window into America, its people and their stories. These storefronts — local public TV and radio stations — have built public media’s greatest asset: our unique relationships with listeners and viewers, local businesses and governments, and anchor institutions in the arts, philanthropy, education and social welfare. Yet at Public Radio Capital we increasingly hear from public media executives facing competitive and financial challenges that threaten their stations’ economic foundations and thus their effectiveness. Let’s face it: The public media business model isn’t changing. It has already changed in dramatic ways.

Kentucky public radio stations evaluate advantages of working together

Leaders of Kentucky’s public radio stations are considering how they might collaborate and consolidate operations, with a goal of cutting costs and boosting reporting on local and regional issues. Six of Kentucky’s seven public radio stations have enlisted Public Radio Capital to assess benefits of closer collaboration and to help advance the process if all agree to move ahead. Universities hold licenses to five of the stations and may need to join future negotiations as well. The state has some history of successful station mergers. In 1993, WUOL, licensed to the University of Louisville, and two stations operated by libraries merged under the auspices of the Public Radio Partnership, a newly formed community licensee.

Kansas City pubTV buys Triple A music station

A new kind of public media signal expansion will rock Kansas City, Mo., under a license transfer agreement announced April 19 by KCPT. The Missouri-based community licensee is purchasing KTBG-FM, a split-format NPR News and Triple A music station licensed to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. KCPT will pay $1.1 million in cash to the university and provide $550,000 worth of in-kind services, according to Kliff Kuehl, KCPT c.e.o.

“I’m a big fan of the station and love what they’ve been doing,” Kuehl said. “We want to make it a place to go for live, local music, the arts and culture of the nonprofit community in the Kansas City area.”

KCPT’s plans for its new station include an $600,000 engineering project to boost the KTBG’s signal and reach. The station’s transmitter will be relocated to a site 20 miles closer to Kansas City.

Friends’ group proposes that university continue to subsidize Delmarva Public Radio

A group of local boosters looking to take over operations of Delmarva Public Radio’s two public radio stations submitted a bid last week that outlined their proposal to preserve the stations’ existing formats, but the Salisbury University Foundation has postponed any decisions on the future of WSDL in Ocean City, Md., and WSCL in Salisbury. During its regular quarterly meeting on Dec. 5, directors of the foundation did not discuss or vote on bids submitted by organizations seeking to operate the stations, according to Jason Curtin, interim executive director. The foundation is an affiliate of Salisbury University that holds broadcast licenses for the two stations. “We are not going to rush into any decisions,” Curtin said.

Governing board rejects final bids for San Mateo’s KCSM

Trustees of the San Mateo County Community College District in California have rejected offers from two finalists vying to acquire KCSM-TV, a pubcasting station that was put up for sale in December 2011 after accruing an $800,000 deficit. The two bidders were San Mateo Community TV Corp., aligned with Independent Public Media and headed by former pubcasters John Schwartz and Ken Devine; and FM Media TV Inc., affiliated with Public Media Co., an independent arm of Public Radio Capital. Six entities initially bid for the station. San Mateo Community TV Corp. offered $5.8 million, and FM Media TV Inc. bid $7 million, according to public records that the Bay Area advocacy group Media Alliance posted on its website.

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.

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.