The Johns Hopkins University is set to complete the $5 million sale of the NPR station it has held for 15 years to a local not-for-profit corporation at midnight tonight.
At that point, WJHU, heard at 88.1 FM, will become WYPR. The station's new parent company, led by talk-show host Marc Steiner, has been rechristened the Your Public Radio Corp.
The transfer, to be marked in a ceremony on the Hopkins campus this afternoon, will be the culmination of a sometimes-arduous 10-month process. Starting last spring, the university sought to find an outside group to buy the station. As some possible out-of-town suitors blanched at its finances, those already working at the station, including Steiner, jazz host Andy Bienstock and others, hoped to win control.
To cover the asking price, Steiner said his group raised more than $1 million from donors and recently secured a $4 million loan from the Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co.
Station officials say listeners should expect to hear mostly familiar shows on the air for a while. "The programs are not going to change that drastically," Steiner said yesterday.
Locally generated five-minute segments are being created to slip into NPR programming each day. He said he hoped to create regular features, such as a brief bit with the Maryland Historical Society, reviews of film and media, astronomy, cooking and other human-interest features.
"We can't go right out of the blocks with an hourlong show," said Martha Rudzki, the station's director of marketing and development. "That's extremely expensive, and staff-wise we just don't have the bodies."
On the business side, Rudzki said she hoped to restore Friends of WJHU, a dormant group of supporters who helped to raise money and awareness for the station. And she said the station is planning its first fund-raising drive for next month.
Bienstock, WYPR's new programming director, has decided to cancel weekday evening broadcasts of The Connection, a public affairs show produced by WBUR in Boston. It will be replaced by repeats of Steiner's daily show. Steiner will also serve as an executive vice president over programming at WYPR.
Along with station manager Anthony Brandon and Steiner, the station's new board of directors includes the people who guaranteed the loan from Mercantile:
Barbara Bozzuto; William Clarke III; Anne Daniels; Jane Daniels; Darielle Linehan; Jonathan Melnick; Albert Williams; and Charles Salisbury, who will serve as the board's first chairman.
The financial challenges of meeting the regular loan repayments will be stiff, Rudzki acknowledged. "We can't add any more debt," Rudzki said. "We don't have Hopkins to fall back on anymore to foot the bill. People have to understand that."
New long-form programs may have to wait until the station secures underwriting grants from corporations, foundations or individuals, she said.