“Save KPLU!” and “Not for Sale!” were chants heard in Red Square and all over upper campus last Thursday, Dec. 3, as students, faculty, staff and listeners of KPLU rallied and marched to protest the sale of KPLU.
President Thomas Krise reiterated that Pacific Lutheran University is in fine financial state in an open letter to the PLU community. However, the sale of the beloved radio station KPLU to KUOW has left many wondering about the possible financial reasons behind the sale.
In that same letter, Krise called the sale a “strategic decision based on careful analysis of the future of radio and a concern about how best to sustain public media in the region for as long as possible.” He writes that the 2015-2016 enrollment is above expectations, but in an email shared with The Seattle Times, it’s stated that first-year enrollment fell 22 percent since 2011. He also announced a 2.5 percent increase across the board for all wage and salary employees.
Not to mention, Standard and Poor’s bond rating status of PLU has fallen from BBB to BBB-, calling the outlook for our future “negative.”
“KPLU has over 430,000 listeners every week. By combining KPLU and KUOW, you’re not actually saving money,” said junior Zoe Velie, who organized the rally. “Instead, you’ll be making KUOW pay for more because it pays based on listenership.”
The KPLU Advisory Board unanimously voted Nov. 12 to oppose the sale of the station to KUOW, calling the confidentiality of the sale “disappointing.”
“KPLU has recently had one of their most successful fiscal years yet, gathering nearly $50,000 at their last fund drive,” Velie said on the Facebook event page for the rally. “The station is in no way struggling financially, or in popularity.”
KPLU will end this year $389,000 in the black, according to KPLU general manager Joey Cohn.
“Only $30,000 per year goes from PLU to KPLU, it’s mostly sustained by donors,” Velie said. “Most other NPR stations affiliated with schools pay at least $200,000 per year.”
The President said he will “listen to the protesters’ concerns, and will continue to hold individual meetings and constructive forums for dialogue just as he has since the news was announced on Nov. 11.” Since then, he has held multiple open meetings on campus for students, staff, and faculty to come in and discuss the sale with him.
Krise clarified the reasons behind the sale in a meeting with Mast Media on Dec. 8.
“The two problems are that [KPLU] is a seriously declining asset to the university that is a drag on the ability of the university to do its primary mission, and the other thing is the survivability of public radio in our region.”
“We really have thought of every action and every argument,” Krise said. “If you can find a way to solve these two problems in any other way, I’d love to hear it.”
“I’m hoping this will raise people’s awareness,” said sophomore Lyndi Knox at the protest. “Hopefully, if we get more of the campus and the community involved, President Krise will have to take notice.”
Velie encourages supporters to sign the change.org petition to appeal to the Federal Communications Committee to reject the sale of the station. It currently sits at just over 1,000 supporters.