School Board Selling WLRN License Raised As Option To Resolve Conflicts

Mar 24, 2017

A group assembled to advise the Miami-Dade school district in its ongoing dispute with WLRN floated a radical option in an initial meeting on Friday: having the school system sell the license of the award-winning public radio and TV station.

The former journalism executives and good governance advocates convened by Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho met to discuss ways to balance competing interests: Maintaining WLRN’s independence from the school board, which owns the station’s operating license, while also enabling the school board to exercise more oversight of station finances.

In recent weeks, the school district and WLRN’s nonprofit fundraising arm Friends of WLRN have argued over a proposed operating agreement critics say would give the district too much influence over the news operation.

But Charles Dusseau, a former Friends chairman and former Miami-Dade County commissioner, urged the experts to consider something else: divesting the station from the school district.

“Stations were given to education institutions everywhere and ... in many cases they have been divested to some other kind of entity and that can take different kinds of forms, but the issue is that firewall,” he said, referring to operation rules that separate the station and the license holder. “How strong is that firewall? And is it to the benefit of the School Board to continue to hold this license?”

If the School Board kept the license, Dusseau said, the group would likely find itself facing the same questions about editorial independence down the road. “Any entity, any corporate entity, government entity, will always want to intervene and interfere at some point in time just because the nature of corporate entities and organizations,” he said.

Some other members of the group signaled a willingness to consider the idea.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.