Seattle School Board considers selling high school station

The cash-strapped Seattle School board is desperately trying to figure a way out of a $20 million budget hole; the options they've placed on the table include selling Mercer Island High School's 30-year old student-run station KNHC. Get the details here and here.

The threat to the station comes as Seattle's other high school student-run radio station (how many cities have two ? or even one?), Mercer Island's KMIH, continues to be threatened with encroachment by a commercial station that wants to horn in on the Seattle market (info here).

Support for keeping KNHC public is beginning to erupt from numerous quarters (see my open letter to the school board below), but it may take quite a lot more to get the board to take the sale option off the table. Disheartening, since Seattle's most progressive elected officials by far are on the school board...

[sent to: sally.soriano@seattleschools.org, darlene.flynn@seattleschools.org, brita.butler-wall@seattleschools.org, dick.lilly@seattleschools.org, mary.bass@seattleschools.org, irene.stewart@seattleschools.org, jan.kumasaka@seattleschools.org ]

Dear School Board member,

I am writing on behalf of Reclaim the Media, a public interest media advocacy group in Seattle, to urge the school board to take the option of selling KNHC off the table. Can you confirm your position on this matter?

KNHC represents irreplaceable educational opportunities to students, as noted in Bill Virgin's recent column in the P-I. But KNHC also serves a crucial public interest concern by broadcasting popular music free from the commercial manipulation of playlists common in commercial radio today. In an industry dominated by a handful of giant firms--Clear Channel, Viacom and Entercom--KNHC is a real rarity: a noncommercial voice that authentically gives young people an opportunity to share music with their peers.

Kids who today listen to KNHC would transfer their listener loyalty to a commercial station owned by one of these giants--moving them into an environment characterized by countless advertisements, sexist and racist commentary, and a defiinition of "youth culture" created by corporate consultants rather than music fans.

I am sympathetic with the school district's financial troubles, and the potential sale figure of $8 million might have appeared somewhat magical when revealed. But the station's real value, both to students and to the public interest, is far in excess--and it's a resource which we will truly never be able to regain if lost now.

sincerely yours,

Jonathan Lawson
Reclaim the Media

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey