- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The fate of local Christian radio station WGTS-FM (91.9) will be decided tomorrow, when officials from Columbia Union College take a final vote on whether to sell the Takoma Park station’s broadcast license.

Columbia Union College, an affiliate of the Silver Spring-based Seventh-day Adventist Church, owns WGTS. The station has existed for 50 years and broadcast contemporary Christian music for the past decade.

Board members of the small private college — which was founded in 1904 and has 700 students — meet tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. and will consider several bids for the station’s broadcast license.

As reported by Channel Surfing, the college in July voted to enter negotiations with the American Public Media Group, which owns Minnesota Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio, for more than $20 million.

By all accounts, the public broadcaster appears to be the front-runner, although a spokesman for the school stressed that nothing is set in stone and officials could vote to accept a different offer.

Administrators say the school has come on hard financial times and has no choice but to sell WGTS.

“We need to do something transitional for the college financially speaking,” Columbia Union College spokesman Scott Steward said.

The college has been hit by rising costs of insurance and energy, as well as aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance, officials said. Columbia Union, which operates on a $4 million endowment, has an annual budget of $21 million. The school plans to use proceeds from the sale of WGTS to bring its endowment up to $20 million.

Staff members at the station, as well as many of its listeners, however, may have trouble letting go. Mr. Steward said the college has received 500 comments regarding the proposed deal, which has prompted Web sites such as savewgts.org and savewgts.net.

“Only God knows the outcome that will happen on September 20th,” the station’s general manager, John Konrad, wrote on its Web site.

Mr. Steward said that the school hopes to continue broadcasting Christian programming through an HD Radio channel, but that depends on the final transaction. A spokeswoman for American Public Media Group did not return a call for comment.

WGTS isn’t the only Christian station in Washington; WAVA-FM (105.1) broadcasts Christian music and talk, and WPGC-AM (1580) along with the new “Praise” WPRS-FM (104.1) play gospel.

In other news

Tomorrow marks the debut of Talk Radio 3WT, the new talk station replacing Washington Post Radio on 1500 AM, 820 AM and 107.7 FM. The station, owned by Bonneville International Corp., will feature syndicated hosts including Bill O’Reilly and Randi Rhodes as well as “Burd and Doyle in the Morning” with David Burd and Jessica Doyle. Its motto is “Left, Right and Whatever We Want.”

Washington-based XM Satellite Radio Inc. was named “Best Radio Web site” for 2007 by the Web Marketing Association, a trade group that recognizes sites in more than 96 different industry categories. XM’s site, xmradio.com, was designed by Avenue A/Razorfish and the radio company’s online marketing team.

Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3139 or e-mail krowland@washing tontimes.com.

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