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Call to Action: Please help save legendary Houston radio station KTRU!

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  • Jeremy L. Hart
    Hey, all -- first off, apologies for the mass email out of the blue; I know it s been a very long time since I ve talked to some folks on this list, and some
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2010
      Call to Action: Please help save legendary Houston radio s
      Hey, all -- first off, apologies for the mass email out of the blue; I know it's been a very long time since I've talked to some folks on this list, and some of you I only know through the music-writing stuff.  I just wanted to get the news out to as many people as possible who might be interested & let folks know what's been going on.

      Here's the gist of it:

      The administration of Rice University, my alma mater, made a deal last week with the University of Houston to sell Rice's much-beloved, student-run radio station KTRU (specifically, the transmission tower, FCC license, and frequency) for use as a dedicated NPR "sister" station to UH's current station, KUHF.

      This sale will take Houston's most unique and groundbreaking radio station off the airwaves, shifting the "broadcast" into an online-only format that, in my view, will eventually kill the station completely.

      For four decades, KTRU has been one of very few radio stations here in Houston willing to play truly independent music, without regard for genre or any other boundary.  Right now, KTRU plays music nobody else in this city will, including hip-hop, metal, experimental noise, indie-rock, bluegrass, and beyond.  It's opened the minds of thousands of listeners and exposed them to music they never would've heard otherwise.

      KTRU also means a great deal to the students who've run the place, year after year.  I was a DJ myself for several years, even after graduation, and listening to and working at the station was a seriously mind-blowing thing for a kid from radio-deprived Central Texas.  It's no stretch to say that KTRU changed the course of my life.

      Now, if you're getting this, it's because you're a Rice alum, a member of KTRU's wider Houston community, part of a band or record label, a music promoter, or a member of the press, someone who I'm thinking might be as outraged and appalled about this mess as much as I am.

      If that's the case, I'd encourage you to do whatever you can to make your voice heard and support efforts to save the station.  Visit the following site to see how you can help:


      If you live in Houston, there will be a protest rally at Rice University tomorrow (Sunday, 8/23), in the main quad by the statue of William Marsh Rice.  Please attend if you can and show your support; the more people we can get there, the more impact it'll have.

      Despite what the university's currently saying, this is not a done deal.  The FCC still has to review and approve the sale, a process which can take up to 30 days.  People are rallying to save KTRU, and they're not giving up without a fight.

      Admittedly, I've got no idea if there's even a legal leg to stand on, so to my mind this fight's about the public image of both universities involved.

      If you're looking for other info, check here:


      For those who're curious, some other points I'd make about the sale:

        * The deal was made behind the scenes, while students were out for the summer.  KTRU staff had to learn about the sale from a Houston Press blog post, the day before the University of Houston board was due to vote on the deal.  The University of Houston board wasn't even made aware of the name of the station they were buying 'til the day of the vote.

        * At no point during the negotiations did the university consult any station staff, students, or alumni regarding the sale. I'll grant that some folks may think KTRU's programming is unlistenable noise, but the underhanded way the university has handled the deal absolutely reeks, regardless.

        * This is especially egregious considering that KTRU's staff are also one of the largest student groups at Rice University.  I can't imagine any university anywhere just offhandedly gutting a major student activity like this without first checking with the students affected, at the very least.

        * According to a source at the University of Houston, KUHC could take over KTRU's frequency as early as this coming Monday, August 23rd.

        * The Rice administration has tried to argue that it's not selling "KTRU," since the station's current online streaming-radio service will remain intact.  However, not all of KTRU's current audience can listen online, and limiting the station's listenership will permanently damage the station and discourage students and community members from volunteering.

        * In addition, one of the greatest things about KTRU as it stands is that a listener could stumble across the station on the radio dial and hear something they'd never heard before.  Going forward, listeners would need to specifically go to KTRU's Website to hear the broadcasts.

        * Labels and promoters will be vastly less likely to send KTRU new music for airplay if the station is strictly Internet radio, in part because of the bullet above.

        * KTRU was built by students, starting out in a college dorm room 40 years ago, and has been run by students and volunteers throughout its existence.  The station isn't a "professional" station, by any means, but it gives students a chance to do something they'd probably never do otherwise: reach out to the fourth-largest city in America.

        * The administration didn't even have to pay for the 50KW transmission tower and frequency its currently selling; those were donated as part of a deal with a larger classical station to reduce interference.

        * This station has long been a part of Rice's identity as a school, part of the whole oddball/not-quite-like-the-rest vibe that attracts people to Rice in general, and if it is allowed to die, part of that identity will be eroded away.

      That's all I've got.  Again, I know this is out-of-the-blue, and if any of this annoys you, I sincerely apologize.  Please ignore it, and I swear I won't pester you about this any further.

      The whole thing makes me absolutely heartsick -- I literally wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for my experiences working at and listening to this radio station, and I'm just trying to do anything I can to help save it.

      If you've got any questions for me, send me an email; if you don't mind, though, please make sure you're not blasting back to the whole pile of people to whom I'm sending this message.  And please feel free to forward this message on to anybody else who might be interested.

      Thanks for your time,

      Jeremy Hart
      Rice (Wiess) '95
      Editor/Co-publisher, Space City Rock
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