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ISSUE 118 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/3/2004

WCAL sale finalized

By Jean Mullins
Executive Editor

Friday, December 3, 2004

St. Olaf College has officially turned over ownership of its radio station, 89.3 WCAL, to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) as of Nov. 21. A flurry of protest surrounded the radio station after the announcement of its pending sale in August.

MPR approached the St. Olaf Board of Regents about buying the station in August. After a lengthy process, the final phase of the sale ended two weeks ago when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it would approve the sale of WCAL. Within days, MPR and St. Olaf finalized the sale.

The organization SaveWCAL had worked to stop the sale, and had brought an alternative proposal to the table, claiming that through donations, the organization could promise St. Olaf $10 million over the next three years to retain ownership of the radio station.

The Board of Regents, before finalizing the sale, created a committee to investigate the "workability" of SaveWCAL'’s proposal, according to St. Olaf President Christopher Thomforde. The committee did not believe the proposal to be viable, and rejected it.

The agreement that St. Olaf had entered into with MPR would have had either party paying $750,000 for backing out of the deal.

SaveWCAL still hopes that it can stop the transfer of the radio station. The group intends to file a second appeal with the FCC, which would go directly to the commissioners.

A public meeting will be held Dec. 8 regarding possible misappropriation of funds by St. Paul'’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). MPR approached the HRA about a $22 million loan which it planned to use part of to pay for WCAL.

This meeting will also investigate the possible conflicts of interest between the board members of Piper Jaffray, the lead underwriter for the HRA bond, MPR and St. Olaf. All three boards have at least one common member.

Thomforde addressed this concern, saying that St. Olaf has a procedure for voting when there is a conflict of interest –- - the member in question does not vote.

In the meantime, St. Olaf and the greater community feel the loss of the radio station. Holm said, "I'’m upset the station is gone, I’'m upset at the blatant media conglomeration by MPR and I'’m upset with how the decision was handled within the administration."

Some members of the community feel that the administration mishandled the sale. "It really was clandestine and sneaky," SaveWCAL supporter Kristine Larson said. "The administration has lost faith with us by their decision to sell WCAL."

As a final farewell to WCAL, a diverse group of musicians gathered in St. Paul on Nov. 28 for the "Concert in Thanksgiving for WCAL."”

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