Students, alumni disappointed with sale of KPLU for $8 million

Pacific Lutheran University announced their intent today to sell the broadcasting rights and facilities for KPLU to the University of Washington and KUOW for $8 million.

The University of Washington Board of Regents has approved the proposal, The Seattle Times reports.

The $8 million will go toward PLU’s endowment fund. The $8 million comprises $7 million in cash for the station, and an additional $1 million in the form of underwriting announcements – radio sponsorships – for the next 10 years.

“This [decision] made sense to us because we have long shared a common mission and a common region,” PLU Vice President of Marketing and Communications Donna Gibbs told Mast Media Thursday. “We feel it is better to come together for the good of the community and the listening public.”

Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger reports an unnamed source at KPLU said this was not a decision made due to the financial state of the University. The newspaper also reports that KPLU staffers had no knowledge of the sale before a meeting this morning.

It’s unclear how the sale will affect the PLU students currently employed at the station.

“I haven’t heard anything yet,” KPLU student-employee Makayla Tolmie told Mast Media. “I’m more concerned for the donors, reporters and staff.”

As for KPLU staff, Gibbs says there are 20 open positions which “every KPLU employee is encouraged to apply for.”

According to The Stranger, “the open positions are assumed to be music and administrative jobs, not reporting positions.”

“From this point, we have to work toward a definitive agreement,” Gibbs said.

That agreement gets sent to the FCC to review, which could take anywhere between three to six months. Until then, the station will continue to be independently operated.

Alumni and current students have expressed their disappointment on social media (and on camera in the video above).

Kevin Freitas ’03

Anna Izenman ’09

Jessica Trondsen ’14

Graham Johnson ’96

Troy Oppie ’03

Allie Reynolds ’15

David Deacon-Joyner, Director of Jazz Studies at PLU, said that he’d rather not comment on the matter.

“I can imagine that people will be saddened,” Gibbs said. “But I think that those people that understand the realities of what’s happening to traditional media, they’ll understand that this is the best way to continue to create new content and grow audience for new media and increase leadership role in the community and increase revenue in the process.”

In the proposed plan, 94.9 FM – KUOW’s current station – will take over all National Public Radio and Northwest News broadcasts, while 88.5 FM will become a full-time jazz station. PLU President Thomas Krise says this is a decision which reflects the shared mission of the two organizations.

The Seattle/Tacoma market is one of the few metropolitan areas that continue to have competing public radio stations,” Krise wrote in a release sent Thursday morning. “Bringing the resources of these two stations together will enable listeners to have dedicated stations, which is a structure that is being adopted across the public broadcasting landscape nationwide.”

Caryn Mathes, KUOW president and general manager, told the Seattle Times this funding comes primarily from KUOW reserves but also draws upon “UW’s internal lending program” and money from KUOW sponsors – in the form of underwriting funds.

Photo from KUOW. Click photo to see the FAQ.
Photo from KUOW. Click photo to see the FAQ.

A FAQ posted by KUOW says that this is a reflection of “a structure that is being adopted successfully across the public broadcasting landscape nationwide. It strengthens our radio community with a dedicated jazz station, and broadens the reach of our news and information station.”

“This will be a big win for the community because people will get more of whichever thing they like,” Mathes said in a news clip from the Seattle Times. “We’re eliminating content duplication.”

KPLU is presently operated as a public media company known as Pacific Public Media, an organization that is called a “community service” of Pacific Lutheran University on the KPLU About page. KPLU has been an NPR station since 1980, when it broadcasted from a tower near Port Orchard. It was a 24-hours news and jazz station by 1985.

Follow MastMedia on Facebook and Twitter @PLUMast for continued updates.

Reporting by JEFF DUNN, MATTHEW SALZANO, GENNY BOOTS, BROOKE THAMES AND JAKE BILYEU 🅼

Matthew Salzano

Class of 2018 Communication and Women's and Gender Studies double-major. Matt Served as the 2016-17 Editor-in-Chief of The Mast and as a writer for PLU.edu. He also previously served as Entertainment Editor and Mast TV General Manager. From Spokane, Washington. Studied away in Oxford January/Spring 2016.

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