Contributions of $7 million from 18,000 donors preserve KPLU as an independent, community-licensed public radio station
Pacific Lutheran University and Friends of 88.5 FM, a nonprofit community organization formed to preserve local National Public Radio affiliate KPLU, announced today that they have reached an agreement that will allow Friends of 88.5 to assume ownership of the station pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
On Nov. 12, 2015, PLU and the University of Washington announced PLU’s intent to sell its broadcasting rights and facilities associated with KPLU to KUOW. Following listener outcry, the two universities agreed, in early January, to allow the Friends of 88.5 FM six months to raise a matching offer and enter into a definitive agreement on substantially the same terms as the UW agreement.
An unprecedented “Save KPLU” fundraising effort among the station’s listeners resulted in more than 24,000 donations from over 18,000 donors contributing to the $7 million goal, which was reached on May 26, 2016. Additional contributions since that date have helped build a reserve fund to cover operations when the license assignment is completed.
The purchase price for the station and its assets is $8 million: $7 million in cash plus $1 million of in-kind underwriting announcements to be provided to PLU over 10 years. As part of the agreement, Friends of 88.5 FM will continue to use broadcast and office space in the Martin J. Neeb Center on the PLU campus and KPLU’s broadcast equipment in Seattle and Tacoma, at no cost, through June, 2019. It will also take ownership of all KPLU translators and transmitters. The community group will retain all KPLU employees, including the 14-member independent local news team.
“We are impressed by the fundraising effort undertaken by the Friends of 88.5 FM,” said PLU President Thomas W. Krise. “We thank the University of Washington for gracefully agreeing to step aside and let KPLU continue to serve its listeners with the news and jazz programming they have come to rely upon. We wish the community group well as they continue to serve and celebrate the greater Puget Sound area.”
“We are humbled and deeply gratified by the outpouring of support from the community,” said KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. “Our listeners saved something they felt a personal and emotional connection to, and told us KPLU felt like their friends or family. We want to grow that connection and ingrain ourselves even more into the community. We want to be a resource that tells illuminating stories and plays wonderful music, so KPLU can continue to be, as listeners have said, ‘a soundtrack to our daily lives’.”
The community group will apply for an assignment of the license with the FCC, which will be submitted by July 7, 2016. The FCC approval process typically takes a few months. Friends of 88.5 FM expects to assume ownership sometime in the fall. As part of the assignment, the station will be required to change its call letters, and the station plans to solicit community input before deciding on new call letters.
Friends of 88.5 FM, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is the entity responsible for the Save KPLU campaign and, after a successful assignment of the license, will oversee all station governance issues, including fiscal oversight, FCC compliance and policy decisions. A list of members of Friends of 88.5 FM’s Board of Directors can be found at https://savekplu.org. As mandated by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the station will also maintain a Community Advisory Council. Together, these two groups are the primary means by which the community will have influence on the operations and direction of the station. About one-third of all public radio stations in the U.S. operate as community licensees, most notably WBEZ in Chicago, WNYC in New York, KQED in San Francisco, as well as local stations KEXP and KING-FM.