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UPDATED: AMU Sells Local Radio Station to Christian Broadcaster

Local Catholic radio in southwest Florida will be leaving the airwaves shortly.

Ave Maria University has announced it is selling its local radio station, WDEO-FM, to the Educational Media Foundation (EMF) which owns and operates close to 350 radio stattions in the U.S. specializing in adult contemporary Christian music.

WDEO, which broadcasts at 98.5 on the FM dial and can be heard throughout the Naples-Fort Myers area, has been broadcasting programming from the Ave Maria Radio network in Michigan since the station was purchased almost 10 years ago for close to $5 million. The purchase price of the current transaction is about $2.2 million, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the station will change format after the FCC approves the transaction.

Bill Kirk, Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel for AMU, said the sale is one of a number of decisions the school has taken to focus its resources.

"Ave Maria University loves Catholic radio and has great respect for its power to evangelize and reach many souls," Mr. Kirk said. "However, the Board of Trustees has made a concerted effort over the last few years to concentrate university assets and finances on its primary mission of Catholic higher education in the United States."

AMU divested its Latin American campus last year, which Mr. Kirk cited as another example of the university focusing its efforts and streamlining its resources.

Al Kresta, the popular Ave Maria Radio personality and the president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications, is disappointed with the sale.

"This is a tremendous loss," he said in an interview. "The reason that Southwest Florida won't have Catholic radio is that the university never put a dime into it," he said, adding that AMU's lack of interest in the station existed for many years, since before President Jim Towey took over as president in 2011.

"We figured they would get around to managing the station once they got their priorities in order, but it never happened," Mr. Kresta said.

Although Ave Maria Radio will no longer be available over the air, both Mr. Kirk and Mr. Kresta noted that that listeners have several other options to continue hearing its broadcasts. The programming streams live on the internet at www.avemariaradio.net and free apps are available for Android and iOS operating systems for smartphones and tablets. Ave Maria Radio also distributes a "WiFi radio" that will let let people listen through a special device linked into a home's wireless network.

AMU was represented in the transaction by Serafin Bros., Inc., a Tampa-based media brokerage.

This story was updated to include comments from Mr. Kirk, which were not available when the story was first published.

 

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