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.

NYPR looking to boost coverage for classical station

New York Public Radio has applied to the FCC to acquire 90.3 FM in Ossining, N.Y., from community licensee Hudson Valley Community Radio for $400,000. The broadcaster plans to use the new signal as a repeater for WQXR, its classical music station airing on 105.9 FM in New York City. Ossining is about 40 miles north of the city, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. The addition of 90.3 FM would expand WQXR’s reach to areas of Westchester County that were within its coverage area when it was owned by the New York Times. NYPR’s 2009 purchase of WQXR was a three-way transaction with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision that involved moving the classical station to a weaker signal.

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.

Northeast gets several new pubradio stations

The number of pubradio stations in the northeastern U.S. has grown in recent weeks with the addition of new stations with signals reaching listeners in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Vermont Public Radio has expanded service in southeastern Vermont and elsewhere with a new full-power station, 88.9 FM WVBA, an 8,800-watt NPR news station in Brattleboro. VPR also moved a translator station in Brattleboro from 94.5 FM to 94.3 FM, boosting its signal from 10 watts to 190 watts and bringing its VPR Classical service to the community. In New York’s lower Hudson Valley area, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson has launched a new pubradio signal, 88.1 FM WLHV. The 910-watt station received its authorization from the FCC Nov.

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.