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Sources: KVIE unlikely to take over Sacramento NPR station

A letter from the endowment board to CSU Sacramento suggested the non-profit TV outlet take over struggling CapRadio.

A letter from the endowment board to CSU Sacramento suggested the non-profit TV outlet take over struggling CapRadio.

A sign outside the radio studios of CapRadio on the campus of CSU Sacramento. (Photo via Google Street View)
A sign outside the radio studios of CapRadio on the campus of CSU Sacramento. (Photo via Google Street View)

The endowment board of beleaguered NPR member station Capital Public Radio (CapRadio) is floating the idea of having the radio broadcaster merge with Sacramento’s PBS member KVIE.

In a letter sent to the president of California State University, Sacramento — the license holder for CapRadio — the endowment board said a merger with the public broadcast TV outlet would remedy many of CapRadio’s financial problems that have accrued over the past three years.

The financial problems were disclosed through an audit made public last October that revealed some former executives were late covering certain payments on credit accounts in CapRadio’s name. It also found some executives approved purchases without the approval of the board of directors, and failed to secure written agreements from two vendors working on the radio outlet’s behalf.

“We have real and immediate work to do to ensure CapRadio’s financial controls and operational processes are disciplined, sound, and transparent going forward,” Luke Wood, the President of CSU Sacramento, said in a statement at the time.

CapRadio operates two stations in Sacramento — news outlet KXJZ (90.9 FM) and classical music station KXPR (88.9 FM) — along with a network of translators that cover much of the Sacramento region and San Joaquin Valley.

A merger with KVIE (Channel 6, PBS) would not be unprecedented — non-profit radio and television stations are commonly co-owned, with similar arrangements in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But sources familiar with the situation told The Desk last week that it is highly unlikely the radio and television outlets in Sacramento will unify. Closed-door conversations at CSU Sacramento involve school officials that are hesitant to transfer the license of KXPR and KXJZ to KVIE, according to two sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Formal conversations between CSU Sacramento, CapRadio and KVIE have yet to take place. But officials at KVIE are equally hesitant about any merger between it and the radio broadcaster, one source said, and discussions are unlikely to result in any agreement to marry the two outlets.

CapRadio’s financial issues are not the only matter that is likely to convince KVIE to turn down a merger proposal, if one is offered. The radio broadcaster’s numerous satellite stations across the state are likely to be another sticking point, which would require KVIE to “significantly increase” its operational budget to accommodate engineering and administrative work associated with those translators, the source said.

Those satellites are located in Stockton, Sutter, Groveland, Quincy and Tahoe City, and operate as full-power translators of certain CapRadio programming. Six low-power stations — located in Merced, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Merced and Davis — provide ancillary coverage of CapRadio’s news and music programming. CapRadio also operates two public radio stations in the Chico and Redding areas under shared services agreements that are more common in the commercial broadcasting industry.

KVIE’s city-grade signal is available across most of CapRadio’s footprint, but executives at the TV outlet are unconvinced that the radio network will generate enough revenue to justify continued operation of public radio stations outside the immediate Sacramento area, a source said. A more-plausible takeover scenario is one that would involve KQED (88.5 FM), the public radio station in San Francisco that operates a full-power translator in Sacramento, KQEI (89.3 FM), the source proffered.

Still, CSU Sacramento officials are more interested in looking at ways to keep CapRadio and its network of stations under the control of the university, as it has been for several decades. A spokesperson for the university said the letter sent by the board of regents to its president contained a number of “inaccuracies,” and while CapRadio was open to meeting with their counterparts at KVIE, the university “remains committed to public broadcasting and to our auxiliary CapRadio,” the spokesperson affirmed.

“The university continues to consider options as part of our overall assessment of how best to deploy CapRadio resources while serving its operational needs, and its listeners and supporters,” Brian Blomster of CapRadio said in a statement. “Independent of debt incurred by CapRadio during the past few years, the organization’s operations are sound, and we are working with CapRadio management to further ensure its financial strength.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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