Monday, October 30, 2017


Educational Media Foundation (EMF) is the fastest growing company in American broadcasting. The nonprofit Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) chain keeps acquiring properties with the power of its wallet. Cash makes things happen.

Public media folks thought last week there was hope EMF’s purchase of WBRU might be stopped before closing. According to a report by WPRI-TV in Providence [link], Brown University President Christina Paxson made a last-minute plea to avoid the sale. Paxson urged the board of Brown Business Services (BBS), to consider an alternative offer from Rhode Island Public Radio.  

BBS is a separate nonprofit entity set up by Brown University to operate WBRU, a commercial station at 95.5 FM. For many years WBRU had a popular and influential Alternative Rock format. Earlier this year EMF and BBS agreed to a deal to sell WBRU to EMF for $5.63 million cash.

The FCC has already approved the deal. EMF’s K-LOVE programming has been on WBRU since September 1st, thanks to a temporary lease agreement with BBS. But, the final closing has not yet occurred. But there is no reason to think it won’t be finalized.


Bill Lichtenstein
The new interest in scuttling the EMF purchase of WBRU emerged when Brown University, and WBRU, alum Bill Lichtenstein, launched a movement to stop the sale. 

Lichtenstein is a legendary New England broadcaster, program producer and print journalist. 

He started his career in radio as a teenager working at WBCN, Boston’s seminal album rock station. Lichtenstein attended Brown (he graduated in 1978) where helped build WBRU from small student station to an Alt Rock powerhouse.

Torey Malatia
According to the report by WPRI-TV, Lichtenstein encouraged Torey Malatia, CEO of Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR), to make a counter offer for WBRU. That effort led to Brown President Paxson’s plea for BBS to drop the agreement with EMF and craft a new deal with RIPR. But apparently that is not going to happen.

BBS has shown no interest in RIPR’s offer. We contacted Malatia to see if anything has changed and he replied by email:

Brown Broadcasting Services is independent from Brown University.  BBS has a contract to sell 95.5 [to EMF].  I’m stating the obvious, but BBS has not communicated any intention besides honoring their contract to sell to EMF. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.

So EMF’s fat wallet wins.


Educational Media Foundation (EMF) has been turning heads lately because their satellite-delivered format K-LOVE continues to expand into large markets. Last week EMF announced it has purchased KRSA 89.3 FM licensed to Moss Beach, California.  Also included in the deal is KRSA’s FM translator for 103.3 FM, licensed to San Francisco. EMF is paying $414,000 cash to the previous owner.

The purchase means that K-LOVE now will be available on at least six FM frequencies in the Bay Area. Because EMF has been unable to acquire a full-market FM, their strategy is to buy signals with smaller coverage areas and then upgrade them.

EMF has become a genius at making the most of secondary FM signals. The chart on the right shows the robust presence that K-LOVE has in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro area. 

K-LOVE is one of two satellite delivered formats operated by EMF – the other is Air1, an older-skewing version of K-LOVE.

K-LOVE has two primary signals in the Bay Area, KLVS, south of San Francisco and KLVR to the north. EMF is in the process of upgrading their KLVS’ translator in Oakland to cover densely populated areas on the San Francisco peninsula.

KLVS’ translator in San Jose has only 10-watts but it covers a wide area because of an excellent transmission site. EMF has also increased  it’s streaming and on-demand services.

The final two maps in the chart are the new acquisitions. KRSA 89.3 FM gets K-LOVE into previously under-served area on the peninsula. However, KRSA’s San Francisco translator is the big prize.

EMF’s San Francisco move comes on the heals of their spectacular acquisition of KWSD 100.3 FM reaching the entire Los Angeles market (map on the right). EMF bought 100.3 FM and two other stations in smaller markets for $57,217,989, cash.

1 comment:

  1. The sad thing is that WBRU sold out for so little. $5.6mil is a serious lowball offer for a full Class B commercial license in market #44. If they'd sold a few years previous before iHeart, Cumulus, et al had gotten themselves so publicly into financial trouble? Or if they'd waited a few years for iHeart/Cumulus to move past their current debt problems and for the CBS/Entercom deal to digest? Then they probably could've gotten much closer to $10mil for it.

    Plus $5.6mil is wildly insufficient to create a viable endowment for operating costs. If you assume a 3% rate of return on $5.6mil (and that may be optimistic) that's only $168,000/yr. That's not that much money when you've got rent to pay (Brown does not give them that studio space for free...and I'm surprised Brown isn't kicking them out given the grief BBS has caused them) and substantial streaming costs to cover. And IF they have any professional staff remaining, even just an engineer, that'll eat up a lot of cash, too. Plus they still think they can do big concerts multiple times per year. $168k ain't gonna allow that.