KTRU Meeting Confronts Long Odds Of Blocking Frequency's Sale

Former KTRU station manager Tag Borland
Former KTRU station manager Tag Borland
Photos by Marc Brubaker

"Your frequency is gone."

It was a statement that certainly didn't make Rice alum and former KTRU Station Manager Tag Borland any friends on Thursday evening. But his pragmatic outlook is probably the most important point of view brought up at Thursday evening's Battle Plan meeting of the Save KTRU movement in the Rice Media Center.

The night started similar enough to Tuesday's meeting, with a cluster of around 70 KTRU-loving folk anticipating the forthcoming words when current DJ Vincent Capurso stood up with a microphone.

"We're all here to try and answer one question - how do we kill Superman?" said Capurso before settling into the serious matter at hand: Blocking of the sale of KTRU's transmitter and broadcast frequency by Rice University to the University of Houston System.

His attempt to break the ice via humor, however, seemed foreboding, with everyone in the room acknowledging that the chances of winning this fight are slim at best. The administrations of both Rice and the University of Houston have agreed to the deal, which is currently pending paperwork and, following the mandatory 30-day period for public comment, FCC approval.

Free Radicals' Nick Cooper (center), acknowledging KTRU's "uphill battle."
Free Radicals' Nick Cooper (center), acknowledging KTRU's "uphill battle."

"This is a war, and we are actively engaged," Capurso stated during his opening remarks, a sentiment echoed by meeting organizer Nick Cooper of Free Radicals, who acknowledged "we have an uphill battle." The KTRU group's lean chance of success has not affected the desire to fight for the broadcast signal, though. Seated at a panel table, he announced that after a brief period of questions, the meeting would break into task groups, much like on Tuesday.

During this period, Borland spoke, citing his connection to KTRU as well as the fact his company, Logitek, has been involved in this deal. A declaration that some of the studio equipment belongs to the company, not Rice, brought applause and a wash of hope through the crowd. He stated that his company also supplies KUHF, as well as some other radio stations in the Houston market, and that he has "personally invested" thousands in the Rice radio station.

It was then that Borland uttered the sentence at the top of this article and remarked his regret that over the years, the students running KTRU had "pissed away" the institution by abandoning the student body and not working with the administration. While this didn't please the crowd - Cooper actually cut him off at one point - Borland urged the group to focus on what could be accomplished, remarking that KPFT has offered up the bulk of its HD2 frequency to DJs from KTRU.


Vincent Capurso (center) likened the struggle to keep KTRU on the FM dial to a "war" Thursday.
Vincent Capurso (center) likened the struggle to keep KTRU on the FM dial to a "war" Thursday.

"Did you know that in April, Rice University trademarked KTRU as well as Rice Radio?" he asked, citing them as proof that the university has taken steps to protect aspects of the station's legacy. He would later remark that the current "alternative" broadcasting channels are the future, that analog radio is a dying technology, and that the group needed to view this as an opportunity to plan for the future. "It's really easy to be viewed as kids and not people with a plan."

At the moment, the collection of students, alumni and other community members were focused on their battle plan, not building a plan for the station's future. After splitting into task groups, they gathered to report their next steps.

An organized protest has been planned for 2 p.m. this Sunday at Willy's statue - aka Rice founder William Marsh Rice - on the Rice campus. A street team was formed to distribute flyers as well as circulate copies of the petition found on the website. The media group chose current station manager Kelsey Yule, who has yet to make it back to the university, as the official spokesperson for the movement, and announced that an alumna has been selected for the strategizing and vetting of generating media relations.

Perhaps the most important team, however, was the legal group. If some Kryptonite exists that will actually "kill Superman," the collective announced several steps in trying to find it. This included establishing a legal fund, seeking a pro bono attorney - particularly one with knowledge of FCC rules - filing an open records request for the University of Houston's paperwork from the sale agreement as well as the university's bylaws, and the exploration of possible reasons that the FCC could deny the transfer.

This capped off the end of an emotional two-hour meeting about the future of a station that has clearly touched many lives over the years. As one supporter said, "Look at all of us. We've never met each other, but we're all connected through the station."

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