UT regents approve KUT purchase of a second frequency
It took a few extra weeks to convince the naysayers on the board, but the University of Texas Regents today unanimously approved the purchase of Austin’s 98.9 FM, KXTB from Border Media Partners.
The sale of the commercial-channel radio station will allow KUT, the university’s public station, to split its programming of news and music between the two broadcast facilities.
Experts who follow the industry agree the university got the ratings loser at a bargain price, $6-million. Board action on the purchase had been postponed at the last meeting after some regents questioned the idea, suggesting internet streaming might be a better option. But those folks, who obviously know nothing about the internet and broadcasting, changed their minds. You can assume they received more data supporting the purchase from outside consultants.
The regents’ approval is good news to both followers of radio news coverage and local music fans.
KUT plans to expand its news and information programming on the 90.5 mHz channel. The music will move to 98.9, which will be operated as a public, listener-supported station just like KUT. A station news release says the call letters of 98.9 will be changed to KUTX. The sale of the radio station must still get the approval of the Federal Communications Commission.
In today’s public media market, operation of two FM frequencies by a public radio broadcasting entity in a city is nothing new. Under pressure from constituents, public stations have been increasing news content to fill the void created by dwindling local news coverage by commercial stations and downsized newspapers.
KUT hopes to reduce listener confusion by being able to brand the 90.5 frequency as news and information and KUTX as the local music station, thereby growing the audience for each station.
I believe it’s likely that the programming now being streamed on KUT2 (and once heard on KUT HD 2) will be merged with Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other National Public Radio shows now broadcast by KUT. A KUTX FAQ fails to address the fate of KUT HD 2, however. That was a second over-the-air digital channel carried by KUT until a thunderstorm in June destroyed equipment necessary for broadcast of the news-information channel and another channel devoted to jazz.
The channels were supposed to return to the air very soon. We’ll have to wait to learn if today’s decision by the regents will have any impact on those plans.