Three-way deal takes NY Times out of radio


The New York Times Company is selling its last broadcast property, WQXR-FM New York, in a three-way deal that will have Univision acquire the signal to upgrade WCAA-FM to 96.3 MHz, while non-commercial WNYC Radio will continue WQXR’s Classical format on Univision’s former 105.9 MHz. The new benchmark for a New York City stick: $45 million. (And, no, we didn’t leave out a digit.)

“WQXR is the nation’s preeminent classical music station. We are very pleased that this transaction will preserve WQXR’s ability to serve New York City’s classical music audience and its cultural institutions as a public radio station.,” said Janet Robinson, President and CEO of The New York Times Company.

Here’s how the three-way deal will work: Univision Radio will pay the Times Company $33.5 million to exchange the 105.9 MHz FCC broadcast license and transmitting equipment for the Times Company’s license, equipment and stronger signal at 96.3 MHz. At the same time, WNYC Radio will purchase the FCC license for 105.9 FM, all related transmitting equipment and WQXR’s call letters and Web site from the Times Company for $11.5 million. Univision Radio will retain the WCAA call letters.

As a result of the transaction, Univision Radio will transition WCAA from 105.9 to 96.3, providing the Spanish-language operator with expanded coverage in the market for its “La Kalle” format. WNYC will operate WQXR-FM on 105.9 FM and continue to serve the vast majority of its current audience as a listener-supported public station dedicated to classical music.

With no more commercials on WQXR, the owner-to-be is raising money. WNYC has launched The Campaign to Preserve Classical Music Radio in New York City, a $15 million campaign co-chaired by renowned classical pianist Emanuel Ax, along with WNYC Board members Nicki Tanner and Martha Fleischman. The Campaign will assist with the purchase and ongoing operation of the station. 

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation, the Campaign’s lead donor, has agreed to a $5 million challenge grant, based on one-to-one pledges from other individuals, foundations and corporations. The Jerome L. Greene Foundation previously set a philanthropic record for the largest single gift to a public radio station of $6 million, which was recognized in the naming of The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space – the station’s recently-opened street-level broadcast studio and performance venue.  Additional contributions totaling close to $2 million have been pledged by members of the WNYC Board of Trustees including a generous commitment of $1 million toward the Foundation’s match offered by Bernard and Anne Spitzer.

“Seven years ago, I was one of the voices calling for WNYC to preserve as much classical music as possible on its air,” said Emanuel Ax. “Today, I am happy to stand with WNYC as it carries off the sonic equivalent of saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecker’s ball by preserving WQXR as our sole all-classical music station. I know that all of my colleagues will rejoice in this wonderful and meaningful use of the airwaves, and I urge all of New York to embrace and support WNYC’s leap of faith,” the famed musician added.

WNYC Radio said it expects to begin operating WQXR on 105.9 in October.

RBR/TVBR observation: That price tag just leaves us speechless.