KPLU isn’t going anwhere.
Pacific Lutheran University and Friends of 88.5 FM — the nonprofit grassroots organization formed to preserve the station locally — have announced an agreement that will allow the group to assume ownership of the station, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission.
Friends of 88.5 FM will pay $7 million in cash for the station, plus $1 million worth of on-air underwriting announcements to be provided to Pacific Lutheran over the next decade.
It’s the culmination of a months-long campaign launched by Friends of 88.5 FM after PLU and University of Washington announced last November that PLU intended to sell KPLU’s broadcasting rights, along with the facilities associated with the National Public Radio affiliate, to UW’s KUOW. The Friends group was formed amid local listener concern, and the two schools agreed in January to give the organization six months to raise a matching offer.
“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.”
The “Save KPLU” campaign resulted in more than 24,000 donations from some 18,000 donors. The campaign reached its $7 million goal on May 26; additional funds raised since then have helped build a reserve fund to cover the transition and operations.
As part of the agreement, the station will continue to broadcast and use office space out of the school’s Martin J. Neeb Center — as well as use KPLU’s broadcast equipment in Tacoma and Seattle — at no cost through June 2019. The station, according to its website, plans to find a new South Sound home after that agreement ends.
Friends of 88.5 FM expects to fully assume ownership of the station sometime in the fall. The group will also all KPLU employees, including the 14-member independent local news team. The station will also be required to change its call letters, which it intends on deciding after input from the community.