A grass-roots campaign seeking to buy Tacoma-based public radio station KPLU from Pacific Lutheran University reached its $7 million fundraising goal Thursday — more than a month before its deadline.
A grass-roots campaign seeking to purchase Tacoma-based public radio station KPLU from Pacific Lutheran University reached its $7 million fundraising goal Thursday — more than a month before a deadline imposed on the group to raise enough money to buy the station.
“I’m very grateful to everyone who supported the effort,” said Stephen Tan, a Seattle lawyer serving as chairman of the nonprofit Friends of 88.5 FM. “We did it, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us.”
The group still must negotiate an asset purchase agreement with PLU by June 30 — and eventually obtain approval of the deal from the Federal Communications Commission — before it can take over KPLU’s broadcast license and begin operating the station.
PLU reserves the right to accept or deny any final offer, but PLU marketing executive Donna Gibbs said Thursday she doesn’t anticipate problems in negotiating a sale with the group.
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“We’re impressed with their effort, and we’ve been happy to support the campaign throughout,” she said. “We look forward to negotiating in good faith.”
The Friends group formed in December — a month after University of Washington-owned NPR-affiliate KUOW secretly cut a deal with PLU to buy the station for $7 million and $1 million in underwriting considerations.
When announcing the surprise deal in November, UW and KUOW officials said they intended to shut down the competing public radio station’s news operation and convert the station to an all-jazz format.
But a public outcry ultimately led officials for the two universities to allow a community group to form and raise the money to bid for the station. PLU imposed the June 30 deadline to raise the cash and finalize a purchase deal.
Tan, who previously had chaired KPLU’s Community Advisory Board, said the fundraising effort garnered more than 20,000 individual donations and involved more than 80 fundraising events sponsored by those trying to save the station.
“Late last fall when this whole thing happened, there was a major outcry,” Tan said. “But protesting is one thing; actually donating is another. To see how many people came forward is quite humbling to us. We’re just incredibly grateful.”
PLU and the Friends group are now negotiating a nondisclosure agreement to restrict what each party can publicly reveal during purchase negotiations, Tan said.
When the nondisclosure agreement is in place, he said, “We’ll start negotiations over the terms of an asset purchase agreement.”
Once a deal is forged, the station will remain KPLU pending FCC approval of the broadcast license. That process typically takes about three to four months, during which time the station will keep operating on existing cash reserves, Tan said.
Upon FCC approval, “We’ll obviously have to have operating funds by that time,” he added.
The Friends group plans to seek support for its ongoing operations from current KPLU donors.
“We’re working on letters to notify them now that, unless they opt out, they’ll become part of our donor list,” Tan said.
A good portion of the funding for KPLU’s operations comes through “sustaining members” who make monthly contributions, and the Friends group will seek to replicate that model, Tan said.
Meantime, KUOW continues to seek required approval from the Federal Communications Commission on its bid to obtain KPLU’s broadcast license. The UW would be released from that deal once PLU signs an alternative agreement.
“We are supportive of the community group and PLU now moving toward negotiating their own Asset Purchase Agreement,” KUOW spokeswoman Timie Dolan said in an email Thursday.