Southern Oregon U. gets control of JPR stations


Southern Oregon University will take full control of Jefferson Public Radio’s broadcasting operations as part of a settlement reached in the battle for its 22 stations.

Oregon state and local leaders had called for a cooling-off period in a showdown over control of the public radio network that serves Southern Oregon and parts of Northern California in June.

Jefferson Public Radio stations are owned by Southern Oregon University and others by the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation. It broadcasts from the basement of a building the university in Ashland, OR.

An audit has warned that the foundation’s non-radio projects, such as the restoration of an old theater and construction of a new HQ in Medford, OR could overextend Jefferson Public Radio, putting the university at risk financially for its debts.

The foundation’s board met to decide whether to accept a proposed settlement between the school and the foundation, which would separate the stations from the foundation.

In the deal announced 8/27, the university also will create a new fundraising arm for the entity that broadcasts in Southern Oregon and Northern California, The Mail Tribune reported.

At the height of the battle, the university fired Ron Kramer as executive director of JPR, and he quit as head of the JPR Foundation, which did fundraising and controlled some of the stations.

An audit questioned his dual roles, and it warned that fundraising for the restoration of the Holly Theatre put the university at financial risk. The university had threatened to sue members of the foundation board over the issue.

Gov. John Kitzhaber intervened and appointed a mediator. The agreement gives the university more oversight over the stations and creates Jefferson Live! LLC, a fundraising arm that will be a subsidiary of the JPR Foundation.

Jefferson Live! could eventually take over ownership of the Holly Theatre, the Cascade Theatre in Redding, CA and Jefferson Square in Medford, the planned site of a new HQ for the stations. The foundation will raise money solely for radio station operations.

In addition, the university would sell the Cascade Theatre to the JPR Foundation for the remaining debt plus costs to transfer the property.

Proceeds from the sale of any radio station licenses must go to support JPR, which broadcasts from Mendocino County in Northern California to Eugene. But the foundation would have to submit plans for selling off assets, borrowing money or buying property to the university for approval.

The agreement also calls for the university and JPR Foundation to drop legal claims against Kramer if he agrees not to sue them.

See The Mail Tribune story here