Vanderbilt files for disputed FM sale


SoldWRVU-FM Nashville has not been student-run for some time – in fact, it hasn’t even been WRVU – it now goes by calls WFCL. And despite apparently not having a renewed license yet, a deal to sell the station to Nashville Public Radio is at the FCC for approval.

The university, citing falling student use of traditional broadcast radio, began considering the option of selling the station back in the Fall of 2010.

It eventually cut a deal with NPR that included a noncommercial version of an LMA that the parties called a Management and Programming Agreement.

The contract is relatively old for one that has just made it to the Commission – it’s dated 6/7/11. It calls for a purchase price of $3.35M cash, with an initial $300K escrow payment. It also called for another escrow deposit of $150K should the deal take over a year to consummate – with both deposits applied to the purchase price.

The station’s license expired 8/1/12, and it timely filed for its license renewal on a FCC Form 303 dated 3/26/12. That document is currently listed by the Commission as accepted for filing, as is the just-filed application for the sale of the station.

That is likely because fans of student-run FM radio filed a petition to deny the license renewal, saying that that the station was established for “…the purpose of the operation, publication and dissemination of student communication media at Vanderbilt University…” They argue that the decision to enter the LMA with NPR was beyond the licensee’s authority as pertaining to its University charter and not in the public interest.

Students are currently operating WRVU as an internet-only station.

Should the deal go through, it WFLC will form a station cluster with WPLN-AM and FM, both in the Nashville market. NPR has additional out-of-market FMs located in Cookeville TN and Tullahoma TN.

Under the LMA, Vanderbilt was beholden to NPR for fund-raising purposes. According to the contract, the “Licensee agrees to cooperate with Manager [NPR] in applying for grants, awards, contributions, donations, bequests, devises, legacies or other properties … regardless of nomenclature, for the use of benefit of the station…”

For its part, NPR was covering $3,375 in monthly expenses during the term of the LMA, with $405 going to the transmitter site lease; $500 to keep a contract engineer on retainer; $30 for nitrogen cylinder rental for the transmission line, $300 for insurance and $2,500 for personnel.

RBR-TVBR observation: If interested parties were willing to go to the trouble of challenging the license renewal, it would be surprising it they do not also challenge the transaction itself. That could really slow things down. They have apparently already stalled the license matter. Stay tuned.