Rhode Islanders who once persuaded Boston’s WBUR to bring a pubradio news service to their state nine years ago are now buying its AM station in Providence, WRNI, and starting their own nonprofit state network.
WBUR-FM announced last week that it will sell its two AM stations in Rhode Island. The new Rhode Island Public Radio will buy WRNI for $2 million and the price will drop by about $400,000 when the Bostonians sell a second license, repeater WXNI in Westerly.
The negotiated price reduction reflects the contributions of Rhode Island residents who helped WBUR buy the stations and introduce the news service.
The Rhode Island net will have 10 years to pay for WRNI and will soon launch a capital campaign to raise the money. The Boston station will also offer engineering services, management oversight and its locally produced programs to RIPR for five years.
“Our goal and belief is that public radio in Rhode Island is best served by local ownership and control,” says Paul La Camera, g.m. of WBUR.
“We’re just terribly pleased,” says Eugene Mihaly, RIPR’s president and former head of the group that raised funds for launching WRNI and WXNI. “This is an enormously amicable separation.”
Relations weren’t always so friendly. WBUR was hurting for money in 2004 and surprised Rhode Islanders when Jane Christo, then g.m., announced plans to sell the stations. Supporters of the stations rallied support from state lawmakers, and WBUR backed down a year later, after Christo resigned her post.
RIPR will also buy an FM station in Narragansett for $2.56 million with a loan from the Rhode Island Foundation. After that station signs on, WBUR will sell WXNI. A commercial buyer has expressed interest in the station, says La Camera.
Web page posted Oct. 18, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Current Publishing Committee