The deal between the two universities will transfer the 91.7 broadcast frequency to the University of Houston for use as a full-time classical music station. UH already owns KUHF at 88.7 on the dial. That station will become a full-time NPR news and information operation. NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller says this is a significant move for the Houston radio market.
"Almost 34 million people tune in to an NPR member station every single week. And they listen, on average for six hours. There is a tremendous demand, a huge appetite for news and information. So it's just terrific that the people of Houston will be able to have a full-time news and information station and still get their music and cultural needs met with an additional station."
UH Regents approved the purchase, with three members of the nine-person board voting no. Regent Nandita Berry was the most vocal opponent of the deal.
"This exercise has proven to me that we currently have a stand-alone radio station that bears the university's name and uses the university's resources, over which we have very little oversight and which does not have as its top priority the promotion of the University of Houston, its students or faculty."
But UH Chancellor and President Dr. Renu Khator says the new station will help fulfill the university's mission to engage with and serve the community.
"It's part of our mission to see how it is that we contribute to the quality of life and what we do for the community and I think this is one of the ways we build bridges with the community and serve the community."
The $9.5 million purchase came as a shock to the students and volunteers who run Rice's station. Community DJ Greg Starks says KTRU volunteers found out about the sale late Monday night.
"I've been listening to KTRU since I was 13 or 14, I'm 26. I've been a member of the station for about a year now and I'm really, really upset that it's going to be over so quickly. I wanted to be a part of this for a lot longer than just one year."
Rice University officials say they'll continue to offer KTRU programming through the station's website.
The purchase puts UH among a small group of universities that own and operate two public radio stations. Board Chairman Welcome Wilson, Sr. says it's also part of the university's quest for Tier 1 status.
"One of the Tier 1 objectives is for us to push our arts programs. One of the things we're proudest of at the University of Houston is our incredible arts programs. And it's an opportunity for the University of Houston to become a real leader in the arts community in Houston."
KUHF and the new station, KUHC will be funded through local donations. The sale is expected to be finalized later this week.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF News.