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|Cherry blossoms are in bloom on the Bucknell campus|
Apparently the administrators at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania wanted to get out of the radio business quickly.
Earlier this week they sold WVBU to the licensee of WVIA TV/FM for $16,700, a “bargain basement” price.
Bucknell has not publicly announced the sale of the station, so it must have been a surprise for the students who work at the station.
Spark News found the sale in a list to of transactions. There is no mention of the sale on WVBU’s website [link] or Facebook page [link].
WVBU 90.5 FM – The Voice of Bucknell University – plays an Alternative Rock format mixed with Classic Rock favorites. According to the station’s website, the most recent artists played on WVBU were Rush, The Lumineers and Weezer. Bucknell students operate the station.
Quite a few colleges and universities have been selling their student stations recently. Spark News has been generally supportive of these changes when frequencies are put to a better use and will expand public radio’s service. But the sale of WVBU may not fall into this category. Let’s discuss it from both points-of-view:
THE CASE FOR SELLING WVBU
Lewisburg is a town of approximately 6,000 people located in rural central Pennsylvania an hour or so north of Harrisburg. There is little industry in the Lewisburg area. The population is older than the national average. Bucknell University, with about 3,600 undergraduate students, is an exception to the local demos. This is not a school that people choose for the bright lights of a big city.
Radio in Lewisburg is geared toward older listeners with LOTS of country music stations. Two NPR public radio stations can be heard in the market: News/Talk WITF from Harrisburg and News/Classical WVIA from Wilkes-Barre via a local translator. WVIA might see a small increase in listeners when it adds WVBU as a repeater.
There was an incident in 2015 when WVBU brought considerable grief to Bucknell. In the fall of that year, three students went on a late-night rant filled with racist and hate-filled language. Bucknell learned about it from an inmate at a local prison who complained to a civil rights group. Bucknell suspended the three students and apologized for the incident.
While it is not known if the 2015 situation played any role in the sale, universities have good reason to be wary. The FCC still fines stations for “indecent” language. Usually these offences involve “F bombs” in the lyrics of songs. This contingent liability never goes away. Bucknell now won’t have to worry about a FCC fine.
WVIA must have jumped at the chance to buy WVBU for less than the cost of a used car. The station could have been sold for 10 times $17,600. But, to Bucknell’s credit they didn’t sell WVBU to a religious broadcaster, as many other universities have done.
|Bucknell students on WVBU in the early 1970s|
WVBU drew students to Bucknell. The university is praised for its high academic standards.
However Bunknell it is a private school with very expensive tuition.
Lifestyle matters to students who have the dough to go to Bucknell.
There aren't many reasons to move to Lewisburg.
Over the years, WVBU has been one place where students can express themselves There are many alumni of Bucknell who had supported the school because of their involvement at WVBU.
|WVBU's class of 1992|
Photographs of past and current students participating at the station are very moving.
The station was a place where friendships were made to last a lifetime.
Bucknell gained nothing by selling WVBU for $17,600.
That amount less than one student’s tuition at the school.
Now Lewisburg will be a lonelier place to be a college student without WVBU.
MAJORITY OF PODCASTS ON PODTRAC’S TOP 20 CHART COME FROM PUBLIC MEDIA
On the left is Podtrac’s ranking for the Top 20 podcasts during the month of March. This is one of two monthly charts distributed by Podtrac.
Last week we featured Podtrac’s other chart [link] that ranks the Top Ten podcast publishers. In that post we said that it marked a “tipping point” where commercial media podcast publishers would have a larger audience than public media publishers.
There is nothing in the Podtrac’s Top 20 podcasts that changes our opinion. Despite the fact that 75% of the Top 20 individual podcasts come from public media publishers, big corporate publishers have bulk and the cash to compete in the long run.
Because Podtrac does not provide analytics for the Top 20, this chart is less valuable. What is the margin of difference between #1 and #2? Or, #20. The Ben Shapiro Show is quickly rising, but by how much? Podtrac doesn’t won’t tell you.