by Steve Haruch
WRVU Friends and Family, a nonprofit group dedicated to restoring the old 91 Rock to the Nashville airwaves, filed a petition to deny with the FCC this week, which they announced via press release this morning. WRVUFAF's legal proxies make a few interesting claims in the petition, including this: "VSC’s corporate charter and bylaws prohibit VSC from selling and/or relinquishing control of WRVU." And this: "Under the Management and Programming Agreement, VSC has relinquished control of the license’s management, programming, operation and financing to WPLN. This constitutes de facto grant of control over the license without [FCC] approval, a serious violation of the Communications Act."
Keep in mind this is a petition to block the renewal of the license, though a win for WRVUFAF here could potentially disrupt the sale process and the planned transfer of the license to WPLN later this year. That's a big if, though.
Full release below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Petition Filed to Halt Sale of WRVU License
Nashville, TN – July 5, 2012 – Attorneys Michael Couzens and Alan Korn, acting on behalf of WRVU Friends & Family, have filed a petition with the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) to deny the renewal of license for the Vanderbilt University radio station WRVU 91.1 FM Nashville.
The petition by WRVU Friends & Family—a non-profit organization established last year by a group of community listeners, DJs, and Vanderbilt alumni—asserts that Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) acted ultra vires (in excess of legal authority) in initiating a sale agreement with Nashville Public Radio station WPLN. The petition states:
• VSC’s corporate charter and bylaws prohibit VSC from selling and/or relinquishing control of WRVU.
• The VSC board that voted to sell WRVU violated FCC Rules and Regulations with a series of substantial and abrupt changes to its board’s voting majority membership, of which it repeatedly failed to notify or seek approval from the FCC.
• The terms of the agreements between VSC and WPLN evince an attempt by both parties to circumvent FCC Rules and Regulations prohibiting the sale of airtime.
• Under the Management and Programming Agreement, VSC has relinquished control of the license’s management, programming, operation and financing to WPLN. This constitutes de facto grant of control over the license without Commission approval, a serious violation of the Communications Act.
• The FCC cannot make the necessary determination as to whether renewal of VSC’s license is in the public interest when WPLN is the entity in control of that license and VSC is but a zombie licensee that will provide no public service in the renewal term, but will simply collect its bargained-for cash price.
“[License] Renewal under these circumstances is simply not in the public interest,” says a statement from WRVU Friends and Family. “We are confident that the FCC will give due consideration to the issues we raise and will ultimately reject VSC’s renewal application while the agreements with WPLN are in place.”
Although a classical music feed from a studio at WPLN’s offices has been broadcast on 91.1 FM since June 7, 2011, the sale of WRVU’s license to Nashville Public Radio cannot be completed until Nashville Public Radio raises $3,250,000 from its supporters, and VSC receives authorization from the FCC to transfer control of the noncommercial license to Nashville Public Radio.
In spite of being one of the nation’s top college radio stations (averaging 28,500 unique weekly listeners from July to October 2010) in one of the country’s major music markets, WRVU has joined a notable number of other endangered college radio stations in the U.S. The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times have been covering the plight of college radio:
“What’s Eating College Radio?”
“As Stations Are Sold, Debate About College Radio” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/business/media/06stations.html?_r=3&ref=music
More information about efforts to prevent the sale of WRVU’s broadcast license can be found at www.savewrvu.org
Contact: Jeremy Benjamin, firstname.lastname@example.org; 646.457.2345