KTRU’s Passing Will Mark the End of the End

Radio in Houston has been going downhill for decades.  And when I say radio, I mostly mean music radio.  I still use the radio to listen to news, or the odd Astros game (though I stopped tuning to 740 AM because I would find myself so disgusted by its content on off-sporting hours).

KTRU is the only radio station I will tune in to listen to music anymore.  It hasn’t been a lot of late, but it’s comfortable knowing it’s there.  Student run, student programmed, and with a huge broadcast area, I hope it’s a beacon to non-conformist youth throughout the region.

That will all change soon.  The news of University of Houston purchasing the transmitter from Rice University leaked out last week when UH had to approve the “up to $10M funding” to purchase it.  The actually sale cost has been reported as $9.5M.  You would have thought their would be an announcement or some discussion over on the Rice campus before this happened.  The lack of discussion about the decision is the biggest punch in the gut.

In a day, the Save KTRU site popped up, and today is their first protest.  I saw a lot of student protests at The University of Texas in the late 80’s, but I don’t remember any of them getting what they wanted.  I don’t think this sale will be stopped either.

KUHF which is owned by the UH system is anything but a student station.  They’ve been experimenting with their digital radio feed for over a year: providing one news/NPR feed and another classical music feed.  Since digital radio has caught on even less than laser discs, they desire another analog frequency to provide their dual programming.

The nonsequiteuse suggests Rice could better leverage their station to provide increased value to students, perhaps even UH students who don’t have access to radio air.  And KPFT has offered the Isle of Elba to the to-be-exiled KTRU in its HD2 channel.  Why wasn’t the KTRH/KTRC second digital channel offered to Rice as part of the sale? Rice alum Michael Duncan suggests a leasing agreement (Facebook login ridiculously required) in lieu of sale.  Spinning Indie has an interview with current KTRU Student Manager Kelsey Yule with some useful facts.

It will be interesting to see how today’s protest effects things, if at all.  I expect it to ultimately just provide the venting needed by those most directly wronged.

Ultimately, I think terrestrial radio as we know it is doomed.  I suspect that these towers and frequencies will be diminishing in value as we go forward.  How long it is until all such content is provided via non-terrestrial forms (wifi, broadband: wireless or otherwise) remains to be seen.  I suspect that Rice may be making a smart sale.  Which isn’t to say they should sell it.  (If your child’s baseball card collection was worth lots of money, would you sell it out from under him/her?)

The Future is Change.  Change is painful and people don’t like it.

I hope not, but I fear this is Goodbye, KTRU, it was good knowing you.