Programmers and management still remain in a face-off following last night’s lengthy and emotional meeting of WPFW’s listener-elected Local Station Board. But the future of the “Jazz and Justice” community radio station is now a lot more secure, at least physically: General Manager John Hughes told the assembly that the station may soon close an agreement to move to the University of the District of Columbia.
WPFW is currently located in the same building as Washington City Paper—-a structure in Adams Morgan that will be demolished next year to make way for a hotel. Among many grievances outlined in a declaration of no confidence, the mostly volunteer programmers accused Hughes of failing to address the station’s imminent need to move.
Hughes told the meeting that ‘PFW and UDC are discussing a space at the university’s Van Ness campus that would include enough room for lectures, meetings, and concerts; he also said some kind of marketing and branding partnership is on the table. He said the station is discussing a five-year lease. It recently renewed its FCC license for another eight years.
Nothing is set in stone just yet, says Arlene Englehardt, the executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, which owns WPFW: “We have a proposal from them and we’re talking to them.” Englehardt will be in town later this month to meet with UDC administrators, she says.
Tony Norman, the chair of the Local Station Board, says WPFW could benefit from ties to an educational institution, although he stressed that there would be a “firewall” protecting the independence of the station’s coverage: “This will be strictly a landlord/tenant relationship, primarily.”
“All I can tell you is I’m aware that discussions are being held about this possibility, but nothing firm has been agreed to yet,” Alan Etter, UDC’s spokesperson, says by email.
The university hasn’t had a radio station on its property since the late 1990s, when its trustees sold the jazz-focused WDCU to CSPAN Radio for $21 million.
Following Hughes’ remarks and a question-and-answer session last night, the Local Station Board went to a closed session, where it agreed to proceed with mediation between the aggrieved programmers and management. Those talks could happen as soon as next week, Norman said.