Stick With Me, Here: The Similarities Between Pollock and The Struggle to Keep College Radio Alive

Mural by Pollock

"Mural" by Jackson Pollock

Early this year, a bill introduced by the Iowa House embroiled the University of Iowa in a mini-scandal over the possible sale of Mural by Jackson Pollock, which the University owns. The Iowa House proposed a bill that would force the UI to sell off the painting, which was worth $140 million. The funds would then be used to create a student scholarship trust fund.

Long story short: the University of Iowa did not sell the painting. (The UI’s Museum of Art Director, Sean O’Harrow, scoffed at the very idea. “It’s like selling your grandmother. I don’t think you can sell your culture,” he told The Gazette in February.)

So, how does this relate to college radio?

College radio is at a turning point. Supporters distressed by the pace of station sales are working hard to bring attention to recent college radio station losses in hopes of turning the tide and saving more stations from extinction. Yet school administrators, feeling the strain of the current economy, are tempted by the multimillion dollar offers coming in from public radio groups. —Radio

Many universities are realizing that FM signals are valuable, and are leasing or selling off college radio stations to commercial entities.

But isn’t that a lot like “selling your grandmother”? College radio stations are one of the last strongholds of independent music and they host original programming that is organically created by college students and community members. Though online-only stations have often been substituted in situations where the terrestrial FM signal has been leased or sold off, FM signals reach people in a different, more local, and more direct way.

What are your feelings? Do you think that selling or leasing out college radio stations is, like selling the Pollock, akin to selling your culture? Or do you think otherwise?

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