The Houston Press tells the

  • The Houston Press tells the story of Rice University’s radio station KTRU, which narrowly escaped an administration plan to seize total control of the station away from the students who have been running it for the last 25 years. The article skillfully places this event in the larger context of the corporatizing of universities, whereby programs and activities that do not appear to directly service the school’s bottom line–most notably, those that don’t earn corporate dollars/donations–are being cut back in favor of big money research and programs that simply train students for corporate life.
    Unfortunately the tale of KTRU is all too familiar, save for its more positive outcome. Until the 90s it seemed most university administrations ignored their stations, which didn’t cost much to run, as long as they didn’t get into trouble. But especially since the Telecom Act of 1996, which spurred broadcast industry consolidation and spike in the value of established radio stations in large markets like Houston, Universities are increasingly looking to these stations as cash cows, either as an outright sale on the open market (see these articles in the public broadcasting journal Current for examples of stations in Iowa and Detroit that schools are trying to sell) or as PR machines and public radio outlets, which can be money makers if they produce programming that is successful in syndication. WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania is an example of the latter phenomenon (for more on ‘XPN, check out this article which relates it to KPFA).
    To learn more about the political economy of student broadcasting as it relates to public broadcasting, a very good book is Ralph Engelman’s Public Radio and Television in America: a Political History. (And, no, I don’t get any kickbacks for the recommendation — this is academic press, for pete’s sake).

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