Thursday, December 18, 2008

Texas Tech Radio Station KTXT is Shut Down and Protests Begin

Wow. This is a scary story. I just read on the College Broadcasters, Inc. website that nearly 50-year-old college radio station KTXT at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas was abruptly shut down on December 10th by the university. Apparently the school is shifting its priorities as far as student media go, and the station was seen as a financial drain, and perhaps, not "new media" enough for the school. What's shocking is that KTXT is a prominent 35,000 watt FM station that has played an influential role in radio, airing music not otherwise heard in the area. According to a December 10, 2008 piece on the KTXT website:

"...'We agonized over this decision and looked for ways to enhance KTXT-FM's role within the Texas Tech community, but ultimately we had to face the fact that changes needed to be made,' said Susan Peterson, director for Student Media. 'We recognize this is a huge loss to those who are loyal to KTXT-FM - its listeners and its staff - but the department must grow and change in order to best serve the entire student body.'...

'The overwhelming financial demands of operating an FM radio station, coupled with the radical changes in the radio broadcast industry, made it clear that we need to rethink our definition of broadcast media and refocus our commitment to bolstering student learning,' Peterson said. 'As they prepare to find jobs after graduation, our students depend on us to enhance the skills learned in the classroom. To meet that need, Student Media must adapt to the changes dictated by the industry.'"

Can you imagine if this happened to your college radio station? There's a huge push by staff members, listeners, supporters, and alum to encourage the university to reverse this decision. As of today, there are more than 4200 members of a Save KTXT group on Facebook. From that page you can learn more about how to show your support for the station, which I'd encourage any fan of non-commercial radio to do.

I'd hope that the station will resume operations and that those who made this decision will take a moment to read the passionate comments by KTXT listeners which can be found attached to many of the articles about the station shut-down, such as the following comments on a Houston Chronicle story:

"I was born and raised in lubbock Texas, and lived there from 1978 to 1999. KTXT specially the show DJed by the Cat in the Hat played a major role in defining the person I would become.

I distinctly remember hearing punk rock for the first time on the radio, which immediately gravitated to. Not only did this music introduce me to the music that would define my childhood and adult interest, but it also brought me into the crowd and scene in which I met my some of my most life long friends. KXTX is the only things that made Lubbock more than a cow town. Please don't take this away from the kids struggling to live there now. - Anthony Armendariz, Brooklyn NYC"

And another by a more recent DJ at the station:

"Fall '08 I finally got the guts to volunteer for KTXT, a radio station I'd been listening to for approx. 6 years. The experience was amazing. I made new friends, promoted up and coming bands, and got to make some listeners' day by playing music they would be unable to hear on any other Lubbock radio station. I have a lot of friends who would rather listen to dead air than mainstream Lubbock radio. KTXT provided an alternative, and it's a tragedy to have it taken away with absolutely no notice.

KTXT FM brought bands, art, music, and culture which Lubbock desperately needs. It was a valuable asset to the Lubbock community, a community which only receives national coverage when "the powers that be" make another mistake such as not allowing a GSA group for teens at local schools, arresting the Chippendales for dancing provocatively, and now shutting down the only good radio station that Lubbock has... had."

It's incredibly short-sighted and disappointing to me when a university fails to understand the impact of college radio on the broader community. Even if a radio station isn't the most popular station on campus, even if only a handful of students listen, and even if its DJs are a mere subculture of the university, the station is still playing a very powerful role. Many of the most passionate listeners might be community members, so they should also be considered when taking away such a vital community service.

KTXT is clearly a well-loved station and influential station with many listeners, so hopefully those fans and other non-commercial radio supporters will be able to galvanize in order to bring the station back. It might be that the station will need to become more self-sufficient financially, a not-uncommon practice in college radio. In any event, the station should be given a chance to survive....and I'd really like to be able to feature them on my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour. Catch this blurb about their illustrious past from the KTXT Wikipedia page:

"88.1 has, since the early 1980s, offered an eclectic mix of alternative programming ranging from oldies, new wave-80s, Reggae to house/trance, rock, country and indie. The 1980s led the way to the introduction of Reggae music to the South Plains area. Reggae bands were booked in local clubs as a result and Lubbock experienced a boom in world music influence locally.

As with all college radio during the 1980s, KTXT-FM was responsible for expanding the minds and opening the ears to the sounds of up in coming bands like REM, U2 and The Clash. Whilst other stations in Lubbock stuck with the CHR (Chart Hits Radio) format, KTXT-FM drew many listeners away from commercial radio with their alternative programming thus forcing the commercial stations to pay attention to KTXT's playlists and DJs. Many veteran DJs can claim KTXT-FM as their first home on the air and are currently employed throughout the US as a result."

Sounds like a really cool place. So, please, do what you can to show your support for KTXT. If this shut-down is truly a done deal, than this is a very dangerous precedent.

1 comment:

Cicero said...

Great Post man!
Im a graduate and past DJ on KTXT and it's really unfortunate. The fight continues as students and alumni are pulling together to try and get it back on the air.