WBUR and Rhode Island Non-Profit Reach Agreement to Secure the Future of Public Radio in Ocean State

in News Releases, University Affairs
March 22nd, 2007

Contact: Colin Riley, 617-353-2240 | criley@bu.edu

(Boston) — WBUR, 90.9 FM, Boston’s NPR news station, today announced it will sell WRNI, 1290 AM, to Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) for $2 million, fulfilling its commitment to secure the future of public radio in the Ocean State. This agreement, pending state and federal approvals, provides Rhode Island with its first-ever locally owned and operated National Public Radio (NPR) network.

RIPR also announced that it will purchase WAKX, 102.7 FM in Narragansett, dramatically expanding the station’s coverage to include nearly all of southern Rhode Island. RIPR’s purchase of WAKX will be financed through a loan from The Rhode Island Foundation, and the acquisition is expected to be completed within 60 days.

“Our goal and belief is that public radio in Rhode Island is best served by local ownership and control,” said WBUR Group General Manager Paul La Camera. “This agreement creates that opportunity, and from my perspective, it provides the best of both worlds: The people of Rhode Island own and direct the future of their public radio station while allowing us to provide continuing support through what will be some formative, but exciting years.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Boston University-owned WBUR, which has made a $3.6 million capital investment in its Rhode Island public radio operation since 1998, will receive the $2 million from the non-profit organization over a 10-year period, while continuing to provide programming and engineering support to the new broadcast entity for a period of five years.

“This historic agreement ensures that Rhode Islanders will control the destiny of this important media outlet,” said RIPR President Eugene Mihaly, who acknowledged Boston University for its critical role in incubating WRNI for the past nine years. “Local NPR stations are the crown jewels of communities across the country. RIPR is thrilled to bring WRNI home.”

Mihaly noted that the Rhode Island Foundation has “stood by” the NPR station since its inception.

“The foundation has been a staunch supporter of the effort to create a locally directed and controlled NPR station since WRNI arrived in Rhode Island,” said Ronald V. Gallo Ed.D, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “The establishment of Rhode Island Public Radio assures the development of local programs bringing fresh perspectives to the tough challenges facing our communities, and connecting Rhode Islanders from Westerly to Woonsocket. We are delighted to be a partner in this important venture.”

Once WAKX is on the air throughout the region, said La Camera, the university will sell WXNI, 1230 AM, the Westerly-based station which currently carries WRNI programming but will no longer be needed. He said the proceeds of that sale will be credited towards the $2 million RIPR is paying for WRNI. WBUR also will facilitate and support in the transition and assist with regulatory and related licensing matters in the coming months.

“I am appreciative of the strong support of Boston University, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Board of Rhode Island Public Radio for their willingness to create Rhode Island’s first locally owned NPR network,” said WRNI General Manager Joe O’Connor, who has been asked to remain in his post. “I must also thank the growing number of listeners and the dedicated WRNI staff who have contributed significantly to the station since its inception.

“Once the purchase and approval are complete, RIPR will need to sustain this exciting community resource. I’m confident we Rhode Islanders will enthusiastically support these stations that are uniquely and now truly Rhode Island’s NPR stations. Stay tuned!”

One of New England’s leading sources of news and information, WBUR is owned and operated by Boston University and is a member station of National Public Radio. WBUR has won more than 100 major awards for its news coverage, including several George Foster Peabody Awards, and has been named Associated Press News Station of the Year the last three years.

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