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Board of Regents proposal would transfer broadcast licenses from universities to Iowa Public Radio

A proposal going before the Iowa Board of Regents would allow Iowa Public Radio to fully own and operate the stations in its statewide network.
Dallas Tuttle
/
IPR file
A proposal going before the Iowa Board of Regents would allow Iowa Public Radio to fully own and operate the stations in its statewide network.

Under a proposal going before the Board of Regents, Iowa Public Radio would take ownership of the network’s broadcast licenses which are currently held by the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The proposal would complete a process started 15 years ago when IPR began managing broadcast operations at the stations in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City.

IPR Executive Director Myrna Johnson called taking over the licenses for the stations "a logical next step."

“The universities are looking to focus on their core mission but they also have a goal, as we do, to ensure the network that they created lives on and continues to thrive,” Johnson said.

Johnson said little would change in the day-to-day management of the network. One difference is that IPR will assume the full responsibility of renewing the licenses through the Federal Communications Commission and maintaining the network’s broadcast equipment.

The Board of Regents ended university funding for IPR in 2020.

While some work may shift behind the scenes, Johnson said, listeners will not hear a difference on the air.

“They shouldn’t, no,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to create excellent radio and to continue the service we’re providing today."

According to the transfer plan, IPR would continue broadcasting from studios on the university campuses and lease agreements would be negotiated with the Regents office.

The list of licenses that will change ownership includes WOI 640 AM in Ames and WSUI 910 AM in Iowa City, both licensed nearly 100 years ago.

“In fact some of those stations were in an experimental state prior to 1922,” Johnson said. “We’re very proud we have two of the oldest stations in the country here in Iowa and are just honored we have the opportunity to operate them.”

The Board of Regents will vote on the transfer plan at its next meeting on February 23.

Johnson said the Regents’ decision is the first step in the process. The change in ownership will not be final, she said, until it is also approved by the IPR Board of Directors and the Federal Communications Commission.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa