A group of former KHSU community advisory board members say they're in a holding pattern after Humboldt State University's president outlined the potential barriers to it acquiring the public radio station.
In a May 17 letter to Friends of KHSU-FM, university President Lisa Rossbacher said the university is evaluating whether a competitive bidding process would be required to sell or otherwise dispose of any or all KHSU assets. Rossbacher said the university isn't prepared to enter into an exclusive letter of intent with Friends of KHSU "at this time."
"We especially appreciate your attention to providing learning opportunities for students in the station's future operations," Rossbacher stated. "We are still considering multiple options for KHSU's future that will both preserve and grow public radio on the North Coast while also providing increased opportunities for student learning and participation."
Rossbacher was responding to an April 29 letter from Friends of KHSU-FM stating its intent to potentially purchase the public radio station from the university. When asked what its next steps are, Geraldine Goldberg, author of Friends of KHSU's letter of intent, said the group will hold a community meeting in Arcata on May 29 to collect public input.
"We're just going to take a breath," Goldberg said. "She didn't say 'no, go away.' I think there's still some wiggle room, but clearly there's some, let's say, some barriers are there."
Friends of KHSU-FM is still raising money funds to retain Ernie Sanchez, a media law attorney and an expert in FCC regulations. Goldberg said the group raised the first $5,000 and is up to about $2,000 for the second half of the $10,000 needed to retain Sanchez.
Members of the public radio station's community advisory board formed Friends of KHSU-FM after the university announced on April 11 that it would cease directly funding KHSU.
HSU announced that it was eliminating five staff positions, including the general manager and chief engineer positions, indefinitely suspending its volunteer-run programs and requiring the appointment of an interim station director be supported through non-university funding.
Friends of KHSU-FM proposed including the station's music and program content library, membership, donor and underwriting lists and database as well as the transmission and studio equipment, according to the group's letter. The potential sale would also include KHSU's studio, FCC authorizations as well as its website, domain names, social media accounts and its other intellectual property.
In a May 15 article, former community advisory board chair Jana Kirk-Levine said Friends of KHSU-FM would like to see the station remain at its current home at HSU.
In her letter to Friends of KHSU-FM, Rossbacher stated the university can't sell or donate the Feuerwerker House studio as well as the equipment, facilities and real property used to operate KHSU. The university also would not allow a potential third-party purchaser to use KHSU's call sign and brand name because they would no longer be controlled by or affiliated with HSU, Rossbacher said.
"Third, it is our understanding that our ability to provide access to donor information may be limited by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's rules and the University's own policies," Rossbacher stated. "Thus, any agreement to provide such information would need to ensure compliance with these rules."
Though she said Friends of KHSU-FM needs to hold a meeting to discuss what its next steps should be, Goldberg said the group will likely keep Sanchez on to continue working with the university. She said she was concerned the university had made its decision to reorganize KHSU without any public transparency.
"That to me is an issue because this has been a community-supported station," Goldberg said. "Granted the university houses it, we have paid for the equipment."
Kirk-Levine said she wants a community radio station that continues to have the "bandwidth" and reach that KHSU has, including the ability to broadcast to a variety of remote communities.
On Tuesday, Aileen Yoo, HSU's director of news and information, said there weren't any further updates on the university's plans with regard to KHSU beyond what Rossbacher stated in her letter to Friends of KHSU-FM.
Friends of KHSU-FM will meet at 6 p.m. on May 29 at the Sanctuary, 1301 J St. in Arcata. For more information about Friends of KHSU-FM, email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .