Austin's Last FM Noncommercial Frequency Battle Continues

By Jennifer Wong
May 1991; page 15; Volume 2, No. 6
UT peed in the pool

In less than three months, the KOOP-KTSB controversy will travel to Washington D.C., where an FCC Judge will hear testimony and decide what to do with 91.7 FM, the last non-commercial frequency in Austin. Edward Luton, the FCC Judge presiding over the case, has scheduled the Comparative Hearing date for July 30, although he may take as long as a year to hand down his final judgment.

Luton may decide to award the frequency to KOOP, the community group, or KTSB, the UT student group. Or he could order the two groups to share the frequency or force them to negotiate further, as they were doing last fall until UT cut off negotiations in January. When Luton asked about the status of negotiations, KOOP lawyer John Crigler said, "I don't think we're very optimistic." On May 3, UT turned down KOOP's proposal to split the frequency and refused to consider any other options.

Community radio members have three months left to raise money for court costs, which could exceed $100,000. Although UT's application appears to contain some serious flaws (see Polemicist, February 1991), UT could potentially knock KOOP out of the running through its sheer financial clout, especially since it has appropriated $50,000 of student fees for the FCC hearing. Most FCC hearings have ended with one group getting the frequency because the other group(s) couldn't afford paying attorney fees anymore.

If the Austin community wants to have any voice at all on 91.7 FM, it must support KOOP, which would be the first co-operative radio station in the US. KOOP is our last chance for a democratically owned FM radio station. UT policy prohibits both non-students and students on other campuses from getting involved with KTSB. While UT claims it wants KTSB to teach students, administrators said the same thing 40 years ago about KUT, now a yuppie public radio station with no student input and barely any student involvement. KOOP, on the other hand, would serve both students and community members.

KTSB, which currently operates on cable radio, is less an alternative station than a "training ground" wasteland, where aspiring student bureaucrats overemphasize professionalism and commodify music. If KTSB goes FM, University officials will hold its license, and Texas Student Publications would continue to control its operations. TSP, which has forced the KTSB staff to pay for a "broadcast supervisor" that has acted more as a censor than a mentor, picks the station manager and determines the radio budget. And history has shown that TSP is more interested in the bottom line than addressing community needs. Rather than supplement its paltry library, KTSB recently sold valuable records donated by an anonymous supporter in an effort to pay $11,000 in TSP overhead.

The situation could not be any clearer: Either we own the frequency, or the UT Board of Regents will.


You can become a voting member of KOOP if you donate $30 a year ($15 for students/low income). Community organizations can also join for free. Send money to:

Austin Co-op Radio
[defunct address redacted]