WBAA transfer agreement filed to the FCC

Purdue will have $700,000 of free advertising over a ten-year period

Purdue has signed the asset purchase agreement that moves forward the plan to transfer WBAA radio to Metropolitan Indianapolis Public Media.

“Our full team is excited to serve the Greater Lafayette community, carry on the meaningful legacy of WBAA and discover ways to deepen services to both this new part of our listenership and our longtime audience members,” MIPM President and CEO Greg Petrowich said in a press release.  

MIPM operates WFYI public broadcasting in central Indiana. It and Purdue have jointly filed paperwork for the license transfer with the Federal Communications Commission, which typically takes 30 to 60 days to respond, the release says. The parties expect the closing date for the license transfer to be in late spring.

WBAA will maintain its call letters, its strong heritage and its physical presence in Greater Lafayette, the release reads. Local news and reporting, NPR and global news, and classical music — mainstays of WBAA’s current lineup – will continue to be aired on WBAA-AM and WBAA-FM and its digital frequencies.

“We are pleased to reach this milestone as we work to ensure a bright future for WBAA radio, its listeners and our students,” said R. Ethan Braden, Purdue senior vice president for marketing and communications. “Many thanks go to all those who have worked through important details over these past months. We are excited about the preservation of public radio from Purdue and the enhancements that will come through this partnership with MIPM and WFYI.”

The agreement establishes the following between the two parties:

  • WFYI/MIPM is to assume operations and management of WBAA radio AM and FM as of the closing date of the purchase, to be determined following FCC approval.
  • WFYI/MIPM is to provide Purdue University with $700,000 worth of free announcements on WFYI’s network of stations over a 10-year period.
  • WFYI/MIPM is to provide no less than $300,000 worth of paid student internships at the combined stations, to include expanded learning and development opportunities in positions spanning broadcasting, digital media, sales and marketing and more.
  • WFYI/MIPM is to gain ownership of equipment needed to operate the radio station at the current studio in Elliott Hall of Music on Purdue’s campus and at transmitter sites in Tippecanoe County owned by Purdue and Purdue Research Foundation.
  • Purdue is to provide an investment to WFYI/MIPM of $250,000 per year for the first two years of the agreement to offset some initial operating costs.
  • Purdue is to retain ownership and maintenance of the physical structures, including radio towers for both AM and FM transmission located on Purdue and Purdue Research Foundation land, and studio space in Elliott Hall of Music, and for which WFYI/MIPM will pay a nominal annual license fee.

Other aspects of the transfer are:

  • Four employees of WBAA radio AM and FM will transition to full-time employment with WFYI/MIPM.
  • Donors who retain WBAA membership and who donate at least $60 annually will receive a complimentary WFYI Passport membership (including access to a robust video streaming library of PBS and local programs) as part of the transition, an added membership perk for WFYI members that is not currently available for WBAA members.
  • WBAA program and underwriting partners will gain access to a broader listenership via shared programming that will also air on WFYI stations.

It's unclear how much MIPM paid Purdue for the license itself, if anything. It's unclear how many employees WBAA has, and the release makes no mention of what will happen to other employees not included in the four transitioning to full-time employment. 

Purdue first announced it would hand the rights to the radio station over to MIPM on July 1, and the Board of Trustees approved the transaction in its July 7 meeting, The Exponent previously reported. The approval was met with fervor from community members and Purdue alumni who were upset over the sale, fearing the station would lose quality under a larger media corporation. Community members, including faculty and former students, protested the sale at the board of trustees meeting.

The deal was scheduled to be finalized on Oct. 1, according to a letter of intent sent to President Mitch Daniels from Petrowich on June 30, but neither party made any public statements about why or how the process was delayed. Because no deal was finalized until now, no official contract has existed. 

The Exponent has filed a records request for the asset purchase agreement.