Every time it seems like the story of the controversial Rice-University of Houston deal to sell Rice student station KTRU's over-the-air facilities to U of H is slowing down a little, it always gets a little more interesting.
Most recently, the activist group Friends of KTRU filed a petition to deny the sale with the Federal Communications Commission last Friday; meanwhile, The New York Times featured KTRU Monday in an article about how some universities see their radio stations as easily liquifiable assets instead of educational tools or one of the last sources of obscure, out-of-the-mainstream music. True, there are boutique record stores, garage sales, collectors' conventions and, well, the Internet, but they all have one important thing in common: They're not free.
Rocks Off spoke with Friends of KTRU board member/spokesman and current station manager Joey Yang this morning. We'll have that interview tomorrow, but first we want to talk about the last part of that previous paragraph. Most of its supporters, and even some of its detractors, agree that KTRU's eclectic musical programming is probably its greatest asset. A close second would be how much of that is local music.
Now, have a look at this...
The chart above is color-coded according to musical genre, starting with the various forms of classical music represented by the violets on the left, moving through the purples of folk and traditional music (North American and otherwise) and changing from blue to red across the spectrum of popular music. Over there, in a nutshell, blue = roots music, including country, blues and jazz; green = electronic music (Industrial, house, hip-hop); orange = pop; and red = rock.
Basically, what this chart says to Rocks Off is that there are more types of music than there are colors. White, which is about to become important, means news, talk, politics or any other kind of non-musical programming. Now take a look at this, the color makeup of KUHF and KTRU in both their current forms and after the proposed sale, when the frequency at 91.7 FM's call letters would change from KTRU to KUHC.
Quite a difference there, ain't it? On the next page is the last of our three charts, which show what the two stations would look like when held up against the rest of Houston's radio dial, or as much of it as they could fit in.
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Rocks Off is guessing this may be a little outdated. The non-color-blind among you will notice that 101.1 features rock reds instead of Latin greens; 95.7 should be pop orange instead of rootsy blue - it's a lot easier to tell the difference between smooth jazz and country in real life than on that color chart - and 94.5 hasn't been orange since its Oldies 94.5 days, which Rocks Off can tell you firsthand has been a while.
Still, that's a little beside the point. Even on the left of the dial, nearly all the stations are one color. The only one that comes close to KTRU is KPFT, whose admittedly diverse musical programming is broken up by wide bands of white. So in a nutshell, that rainbow just to the left of that black line is what Houston would be losing.
Oh, and if you're curious about the two stations to the right that have noticeably different-colored blocks of programming, Rocks Off did a little research so you don't have to. KDOL at 96.1 FM is based out of Livingston and alternates contemporary country with '50s and '60s oldies and rock and roll. At 92.5 FM, KZRC used to be based in Bay City but is now closed. The call letters have been reassigned to a station in Bennington, Okla.