The community group hoping to preserve 88.5 FM as an independent radio station has hit its $7 million fundraising goal a month ahead of schedule. KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn announced live on the air Thursday afternoon that nearly 18,000 donors have raised enough money to make a bid for the station.
“It’s unprecedented, I mean, we’ve been saying we have made public radio history, and we really have,” said KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. “To raise $7 million dollars in four and a half months — that’s never been done.”
We at NPI are proud to have played our part in making this happen. For the last few months, we’ve promoted the campaign to save KPLU as an independent NPR affiliate on our front page, encouraging visitors and supporters to donate.
It’s wonderful to hear that the $7 million needed to purchase the station from Pacific Lutheran University has been raised ahead of schedule. Now, Friends of 88.5 FM can begin negotiating with university officials, who had originally planned to sell KPLU to the University of Washington to be folded into KUOW.
If Friends of 88.5 FM can agree on terms with PLU and receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission to become the new license holder, the UW has said it will withdraw its offer and allow the community group to buy the station. The station would almost certainly receive new call letters following the sale, though it would stay where it is on the radio dial.
This detail will be part of the purchase agreement with PLU. The agreement between PLU and UW calls for a change in call letters, and there is an assumption that would be the case in an agreement with Friends. We plan to allow listeners to make suggestions for what those should be. If we choose your suggestion, you’ll be the first to read the call letters live on the air!
The success of the fundraising drive is welcome news for the hardworking journalists who work in 88.5’s vaunted newsroom. Their jobs have been in jeopardy ever since PLU unveiled its deal to sell KPLU to the UW. KUOW, UW’s NPR affiliate, had been planning to turn 88.5 into a jazz-only station, doing away with its current format.
It’s also welcome news for every progressive organization (this one included) gravely concerned about the damage that mostly-unchecked media consolidation has been causing to our region and our country.