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Friends Of 88.5 Completes Agreement To Purchase KPLU

88.5 KPLU Tacoma 94.9 KUOW-FM Seattle Pacific Lutheran University of Washington NPR JazzFriends of 88.5 has finalized its agreement to acquire Public News/Jazz 88.5 KPLU Tacoma WA from Pacific Lutheran University for $7 million in cash plus $1 million worth of underwriting over 10 years.

The community group Friends of 88.5 was created to keep the station from being sold to University of Washington’s KUOW who would’ve dropped all local news programming in favor of only Jazz. The KPJZ call letters had been reserved for the station.

The group had until June 30 to reach the financing goal and come to terms on the acquisition agreement or the sale to KUOW filed last November would’ve closed. Friends of 88.5 FM will continue to operate KPLU from the current studios on the Pacific Lutheran University campus rent-free through June 2019. All of the station’s assets and employees with the exception of the KPLU call letters will be acquired by the buyers.

KUOW will withdraw its purchase application and released the following statements regarding the agreement with Friends of 88.5.

GM Caryn Mathes:

The generosity of KPLU’s listeners is a testament both to the excellence of the station’s programming and to the deep affection that Puget Sound listeners hold for public radio.

Through the Northwest News Network, KUOW has long partnered with KPLU to provide listeners of both stations with coverage of state government and other regional news. We look forward to continuing that partnership as the Friends of 88.5 assume the operation of the station.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce:

Congratulations to the Friends of 88.5 on their agreement with Pacific Lutheran University to purchase KPLU, and on the unprecedented fundraising effort that made it possible. We are delighted they were able to make it happen

Pacific Lutheran University and Friends of 88.5 FM, a nonprofit community organization formed to preserve local National Public Radio affiliate KPLU, announced today that they have reached an agreement that will allow Friends of 88.5 to assume ownership of the station pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

On Nov. 12, 2015, PLU and the University of Washington announced PLU’s intent to sell its broadcasting rights and facilities associated with KPLU to KUOW. Following listener outcry, the two universities agreed, in early January, to allow the Friends of 88.5 FM six months to raise a matching offer and enter into a definitive agreement on substantially the same terms as the UW agreement.

An unprecedented “Save KPLU” fundraising effort among the station’s listeners resulted in more than 24,000 donations from over 18,000 donors contributing to the $7 million goal, which was reached on May 26, 2016. Additional contributions since that date have helped build a reserve fund to cover operations when the license assignment is completed.

The purchase price for the station and its assets is $8 million: $7 million in cash plus $1 million of in-kind underwriting announcements to be provided to PLU over 10 years. As part of the agreement, Friends of 88.5 FM will continue to use broadcast and office space in the Martin J. Neeb Center on the PLU campus and KPLU’s broadcast equipment in Seattle and Tacoma, at no cost, through June, 2019. It will also take ownership of all KPLU translators and transmitters. The community group will retain all KPLU employees, including the 14-member independent local news team.

“We are impressed by the fundraising effort undertaken by the Friends of 88.5 FM,” said PLU President Thomas W. Krise. “We thank the University of Washington for gracefully agreeing to step aside and let KPLU continue to serve its listeners with the news and jazz programming they have come to rely upon. We wish the community group well as they continue to serve and celebrate the greater Puget Sound area.”

“We are humbled and deeply gratified by the outpouring of support from the community,” said KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. “Our listeners saved something they felt a personal and emotional connection to, and told us KPLU felt like their friends or family. We want to grow that connection and ingrain ourselves even more into the community. We want to be a resource that tells illuminating stories and plays wonderful music, so KPLU can continue to be, as listeners have said, ‘a soundtrack to our daily lives’.”

The community group will apply for an assignment of the license with the FCC, which will be submitted by July 7, 2016. The FCC approval process typically takes a few months. Friends of 88.5 FM expects to assume ownership sometime in the fall. As part of the assignment, the station will be required to change its call letters, and the station plans to solicit community input before deciding on new call letters.

Friends of 88.5 FM, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is the entity responsible for the Save KPLU campaign and, after a successful assignment of the license, will oversee all station governance issues, including fiscal oversight, FCC compliance and policy decisions. A list of members of Friends of 88.5 FM’s Board of Directors can be found at https://savekplu.org. As mandated by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the station will also maintain a Community Advisory Council. Together, these two groups are the primary means by which the community will have influence on the operations and direction of the station. About one-third of all public radio stations in the U.S. operate as community licensees, most notably WBEZ in Chicago, WNYC in New York, KQED in San Francisco, as well as local stations KEXP and KING-FM.

Original Report 4/27: The battle over Public News/Jazz 88.5 KPLU Tacoma WA continues as the local non-profit created to keep the station out of the hands of University of Washington’s KUOW.

KUOW announced its intent to purchase KPLU last November for $7 million plus $1 million worth of underwriting. KUOW’s plan was to flip KPLU to all Jazz while letting go of the current staff. Following community backlash, Pacific Lutheran University agreed to sell the station to a local group should they reach agreement on a similar price offer by June 30.

Friends of 88.5 says it has now raised $4,375,842 towards the $7 million purchase price. As part of its offer all of KPLU’s on-air staff including 16 news reporters, the 12 person jazz/blue music staff, and Jazz24.org will be retained along with local music education and operating on the Pacific Lutheran campus.

Friends of 88-5 FM, a local non-profit formed to ensure the future of public radio station KPLU (88.5 FM), announced today that it has submitted a Letter of Intent to Pacific Lutheran University setting forth principal terms for its purchase of KPLU.

“We are deeply grateful to the thousands of listeners who continue to give generously to support a civic and cultural treasure they believe in,” said Stephen Tan, former chair of KPLU’s Advisory Council who has stepped forward to chair the governing board of Friends of 88.5 FM. “With a robust schedule of community events, listener challenges, and support from regional businesses and major donors, we are confident that we will reach our fundraising goal by June 30. We look forward to meeting with Pacific Lutheran University soon to negotiate the Asset Purchase Agreement.”

On November 12, 2015, Pacific Lutheran University announced plans to sell KPLU to the University of Washington and its own public radio licensee, KUOW, for $7 million dollars and $1 million of in-kind underwriting. Under KUOW’s ownership, 88.5’s broadcast towers would be used to further the reach of KUOW. KPLU’s news service, reporters and community outreach programs would be disbanded, and current programming would be replaced by a 24-hour streaming jazz service.

Following a public outcry, Pacific Lutheran University announced on December 17, 2015, that it would sell KPLU’s license to a community group, provided that the group makes a substantially similar offer and the parties reach agreement on the principal terms of an Asset Purchase Agreement by June 30, 2016. The nonprofit Friends of 88.5 FM was formed to oversee the process—and fundraising—necessary to secure a community license and continue station operations.

Under the terms of the offer made by Friends of 88.5 FM, KPLU would retain its award-winning 16-person independent, local newsroom; a 12-person jazz and blues music staff; and Jazz24, a 24-hour high-definition streaming service that reaches 100,000 weekly listeners around the world. The station would also continue a longstanding commitment to local music education (including the widely acclaimed School of Jazz that pairs leading jazz professionals with local middle and high school jazz bands). In addition, the Letter Of Intent to purchase KPLU’s license calls for 88.5 to continue to operate out of the Martin J. Neeb Center, a broadcast facility on the Pacific Lutheran University campus built specifically for KPLU and funded by KPLU listeners and supporters (exact timeframe to be determined).

About one-third of all public radio stations in the United States hold community licenses, including industry leaders such as KERA (Dallas), KQED (San Francisco), WBEZ (Chicago), WGBH (Boston), and WNYC (New York).

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

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