I very much regret to report the news of yet another college station leaving the air. This time the news comes by way of Jennifer at Spinning Indie:
nearly 50-year-old college radio station KTXT at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas was abruptly shut down on December 10th by the university. Apparently the school is shifting its priorities as far as student media go, and the station was seen as a financial drain, and perhaps, not “new media” enough for the school. What’s shocking is that KTXT is a prominent 35,000 watt FM station that has played an influential role in radio, airing music not otherwise heard in the area.
I think this comment Jennifer quotes from a Houston Chronicle article sums up the value of KTXT:
KXTX is the only things that made Lubbock more than a cow town. Please don’t take this away from the kids struggling to live there now. – Anthony Armendariz, Brooklyn NYC
One can only guess what Texas Tech has in store for KTXT now that it’s been yanked from the students and community. 35kw is an enormously powerful signal for a college station, though certainly useful in the prairies of west Texas.
The university also owns and operates a public station, KOHM-FM, which has a mixed line-up of NPR news/talk and music (primarily classical and jazz). My cynical side would predict that the university would like to repurpose KTXT as an all-music or all-news/talk pubcaster. KOHM has double the power of KTXT, so my guess is that KOHM would become the news/talk station, since that format is regarded as the more profitable public radio format, with KTXT becoming all music so as not to alienate the wealthy local geriatrics who donate to keep the unthreatening pop classics on the air.
In any event, this is another unfortunate reminder of the difference between a college station and a true community station. Most (but not all) community stations are run by local non-profit corporations with by-laws that ensure a level of democratic governance accountable to member donors. While not fail-safe, this sort of structure typically complicates efforts to shut down or radically alter the mission of a community station without community input. No such safety mechanism exists for a station owned and operated by a university or college, even a public one.
I don’t bring this up as an argument against college stations. Heck, I’m the adviser to one. Rather, it’s a reminder not to take these stations for granted, whether you’re a student, volunteer or listener. The temptations to sell of increasingly valuable non-commercial licenses or repurpose stations into supposedly more lucrative public radio affiliates are difficult to resist when you’re a college administrator faced with budget shortfalls.
According to the student station manager of KTXT, having on-air fund drives was “not encouraged” by the unviersity. In retrospect that only seems like an inducement to fail, given that the financial drain of maintaining the station is blamed for the shutdown. I hope that this serves as a warning to students (and advisers) at other college stations to pay attention to that bottom line and not be discouraged from finding ways to help fund the station if need be.
I really don’t want to blog about another 50-year-old student-run station leaving the dial.