Within a week the president of Michigan State University, Lou Anna K. Simon, must decide whether to allow the university’s PBS television station to go up for auction. The call-letters - WKAR - aren’t what could be up for sale, but rather the bandwidth, the spectrum, that those call letters occupy are what’s of substantial value. Two-hundred-million dollars to be exact. That’s how much MSU thinks it could get for WKAR’s spectrum in an upcoming FCC auction.
So what is a public television station worth from an intangible perspective? A website has been set up by locals in the Lansing region to “Save WKAR” and many residents are upset with President Simon for even allowing the consideration of the sale of WKAR. Sometimes it comes down to a frustration from viewers over where and how they’ll watch “Downton Abbey,” but there is a larger conversation at hand about the future of public media and what it means to serve the public interest.
Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson is joined by Dru Sefton, senior editor of public media trade publication Current, who helps make sense of the situation with WKAR, and the sale of airwaves. You can read Sefton’s explanation of spectrum sales here.
Also, listen here to President Simon’s interview on WKAR-FM’s “Current State” with host Mark Bashore for her explanation of the factors the university must consider in the auction of WKAR airwaves.