Antioch College to sell WYSO to community group

Leaders of Antioch College plan to assign WYSO’s Federal Communications Commission public radio broadcast license to new independent group, selling a radio station the college has owned since 1958.

Control of the station will go to a newly formed nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with its own independent board. The move also depends on FCC approval of the assignment.

Yellow Springs-based WYSO plans to maintain its long-standing community resource board of advisers and the station’s relationship with the college, Antioch said in a statement Wednesday.

In exchange, the college will receive $3.5 million as partial reimbursement for its decades of investment in the station, according to release from the college.

It’s a move that has long been intended, said Tom Manley, Antioch president. It frees the college to focus on its core educational mission and frees the station to embark on a new era of independence.

“The intention was always, when it was ready, that the radio station would be put in the community’s hands,” Manley said in an interview Wednesday.

Fundraising is well underway, led by a $2 million pledge from Charles Berry, an heir of the Berry family that founded the Yellow Pages, the college said. The overall fundraising effort has raised $3,415,000 toward the $3.5 million goal — what the college called “a remarkable indication of the community’s support for the station.”

An independent WYSO will begin operations once necessary funds have been raised, the college said. That is expected to occur no later than March 31, 2019.

“In the meantime, fundraising efforts will continue and gifts above the $3.5 million goal will go to support the station’s transition efforts,” the college said.

The college is not considering similar moves with other resources, such as the 1,000-plus-acre Glen Helen preserve, Manley said. However, he added that it’s the responsibility of Antioch’s board of trustees to best decide how to deploy the college’s resources.

“We’re not considering another step like this, because frankly, WYSO really is a one-off,” Manley said.

In the college’s prepared statement, he called the decision “a win for the community, for WYSO and for the college.”

The college did not consider offering WYSO for sale in the open market, Manley said.

“Our goal was, specifically, to place the station under community control – that is, the station will be wholly independent and operated for the benefit of the community at-large,” Manley said in the statement. “That is entirely in keeping with what the founders and early volunteers had in mind 60 years ago.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for WYSO, and we are ready to stand on our own,” WYSO General Manager Neenah Ellis said in the same statement. “We are a strong organization with dedicated staff and volunteers who are ready to guide WYSO into the future.”

Ellis said the station has enjoyed growth in membership, listenership, and revenue.

“Our budget has doubled in the last 10 years, we’ve expanded our geographic reach with a new tower, and we’ve created a corps of independent producers,” Ellis said.

“When WYSO was launched in 1958 by Antioch College students, it was always our intention that the station would someday belong to the community,” said Ed Richard. Richard, one of the three former students who founded WYSO, is an Antioch trustee.

No immediate programming changes are anticipated.

FCC approval of the sale is not expected to an issue, said those involved.

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