The Coastal Star

Competitors vie for WXEL while listeners complain about sale

By Kelly Wolfe

Two competing nonprofits showed how they would revamp and re-energize WXEL public television and radio at a public forum June 29.


The Delray Beach-based Strategic Broadcast Media Group and the Community Broadcast Foundation are both interested in buying WXEL, despite the fact that at least
the radio portion of the broadcast station is already under contract to a Miami
classical music station.


Both organizations spoke of similar ideas. Both said they wanted local programming. Both said they would increase staff. And both said they believed WXEL could
make more money than it does now.


Cliff Matis, representing SBMG, said the station could increase revenue by renting out its production space. “This unique cache affords both local and traveling
artists opportunities to produce material at state-of-the-art facilities,”
Matis said.


Meanwhile, foundation representative Murry Green said his group would rely on a superstar sales team to make more money. “We need a sales team equivalent of the best
sales team in town,” Green said.


When asked how much it was willing to spend to buy WXEL, SBMG said it had offered $3.5 million for both the radio and television portions of the station. SBMG also said it already had raised
the money. The foundation said it would get loans to pay for the station, and
would not say how much it would pay for the station.


The exchange of ideas and the presentation, however, are moot if Barry University, which operates WXEL, is allowed to move forward with an offer from nonprofit
Classical South Florida, which said in April it would buy the radio station for
$3.85 million in cash.


Bruce Edwards, a senior vice president at Barry University, was plucked from the audience and asked to defend the university’s decision to move forward with
Classical South Florida’s offer instead of meeting with either of the two local
groups.


Edwards said that CSF had the cash up front. He also said that Barry was not looking to make a profit, but hoping to get back money sunk into the station when it
purchased it 13 years ago.


WXEL has been operated by Barry since 1997, when the university stepped in to keep the beleaguered station from closing. Barry put the station on the market in
2004.


The late June meeting appeared to be in response a loyal listener outcry after the sale was announced. Listeners said they are concerned about losing local
programming if Classical South Florida takes over.


Before money changes hands, the license transfer has to get the approval of the Florida Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission. So
far, the sale isn’t on the board’s agenda.


Pablo Del Real, chair of WXEL’s Community Advisory Board, said the board does not support the license transfer.
Technically, Del Real has said, the radio station is public and
therefore can’t be sold. The money is for the building, towers, transmitters
and other assets, he said.


Because the station is owned by the community, the community does have a voice in the license transfer. The Board of Education and the FCC will hear public comment
before approving the measure.


During a meeting in early June, the Boynton Beach City Council agreed to send a letter to the Department of Education, saying it did not support the sale of the
license because the city feared it would mean fewer jobs at the station —
meaning fewer jobs in Boynton Beach.


However, city leaders did, at that time, voice concern about stepping in the midst of a sale between two private entities.

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