Jun 25, 2012

University of Central Florida board okays deal to buy WMFE-TV; sale advances to FCC

Jose Fajardo, president of WMFE in Orlando, Fla., told Current on Monday (June 25) that the University of Central Florida's board approved its purchase of WMFE-TV, so the deal now moves to the FCC for approval. The board of WMFE, a community licensee that also operates a radio station, approved the sale contract at its May meeting.

The former PBS flagship, which had been set for sale to religious broadcasters, announced on June 21 that it will be sold to UCF for $3.3 million.

UCF, also in Orlando, played a role in preserving PBS service to the market last year when WMFE moved to sell its TV operation and focus on its public radio station. UCF partnered with Brevard Community College in Cocoa to convert WBCC, a pubTV station licensed to the community college, into a full-service PBS station broadcasting as WUCF.

The partnership will end when UCF’s purchase of WMFE is approved. The Cocoa station will broadcast non-PBS programs, said Christine Dellert, spokesperson for WUCF.

In April 2011, WMFE President Jose Fajardo announced that his pubcasting operation was casting off its TV station with a sale to Community Educators of Orlando Inc., a local nonprofit affiliated with Texas-based religious broadcaster Daystar Television. That deal, which generated more than 450 comments to the FCC, hit a roadblock at the commission, and WMFE withdrew from the sale in March. The FCC questioned whether the Daystar-affiliated operator met its criteria for localism and educational programming.

WMFE received another bid from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations, but turned it down last month (Current, May 14).

“WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests,” the seller and buyer said in a joint statement last week.WMFE’s Channel 24 will broadcast from WUCF TV’s studio at the university with leased master control space in WMFE’s building, about five minutes away from UCF, Dellert said.

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