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Chicago Public Media Purchases WRTE-FM/Radio Arte

It is being announced today that Chicago Public Media (CPM) has purchased distressed Latino public radio station WRTE-FM/90.5 Radio Arte from its owner, the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA). CPM is also looking at purchasing some of Radio Arte's programming, which could now see its way to CPM's Vocalo programming on WBEW-FM and vice versa.

In May 2011, Carlos Tortolero, President and Founder of the NMMA in Chicago, held a meeting with WRTE-FM staffers, letting them know that the station and its parent museum were in a dire financial situation and may need to sell in the future. Just a matter of days later, Tortolero officially placed the station up for sale. At that time, one of the four possible buyers was Chicago Public Media. A little over one year later, CPM has finally purchased the station.

The NMMA will receive $450,000 in cash and services for WRTE-FM. According to filings with the FCC, that breaks down to $300,000 in cash upfront, plus another $25,000 in each of the fiscal years for 2012-13 and 2013-14 for projects to be named later, along with $25,000 worth of promotional announcements each year for four years. CPM will become a media sponsor of the NMMA. Museum activities and events will now gain broad media sponsorship from CPM and its radio stations.

The deal is contingent on FCC approval, as well as having the FCC's approving CPM's moving the transmitter to a new site at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

Assuming the FCC approves the transaction and the transmitter move, WRTE-FM becomes the latest addition to the CPM stable, which now includes four radio stations and one translator. Owned by CPM will be WRTE-FM (Radio Arte), WBEZ-FM (Chicago Public Radio), WBEW-FM (Vocalo), WBEQ-FM (simulcast of WBEZ-FM), and W217BM (another simulcast of WBEZ-FM).

While this is indeed a purchase of a radio station by one company from another, the transaction is being called a "partnership." With Radio Arte targeting younger Hispanic demographics and with Vocalo also targeting younger demographics of all races, CPM hopes the combining of resources will benefit both stations and complement each others' community missions.

Torey Malatia, CEO of Chicago Public Media, issued a statement today saying: "I am honored to work in partnership with National Museum of Mexican Art to preserve an important community asset. CPM believes strongly in the power of public media to shape and strengthen a community. In acquiring this frequency we are taking responsibility of this asset to serve the communities currently served by Radio Arte. With that in mind, we will develop programs inspired by the history and legacy of Radio Arte."

Vocalo's Managing Director, Silvia Rivera says her career in public media began in 1998, when she took part in Radio Arte's media training program. In today's announcement Rivera said: "This is a natural partnership. Radio Arte has been a trailblazer in representing marginalized communities and showcasing the diversity of Latino culture. We are going to honor this legacy and pair up Radio Arte and Vocalo programming to create a format that connects culturally diverse communities to one another. We are excited by the opportunity to partner with the National Museum of Mexican Art as the institution continues its commitment to training young people in media making."

Jorge Valdivia, General Manager of Radio Arte, says the partnership will continue the Radio Arte legacy, building on the Latino media community that his program has worked to establish. "Vocalo will be able to tap the Museum's network of students for potential internships, continuing their media training and giving them an expanded audience for their work through Chicago Public Media."

NMMA's Carlos Tortolero agrees, adding: "It is important to our community to be able to continue to tell our stories. I am pleased to partner with Vocalo and Chicago Public Media to broaden the audience for these stories and welcome the opportunity to work with a partner who shares our commitment to the community programming Radio Arte made possible."

Tortolero, a former teacher, counselor and administrator with Chicago Public Schools, started the National Museum of Mexican Art in 1982, with just a few hundred dollars, put together by himself and some friends. In 1987, the Museum found a permanent home at 1401 W. 18th St. in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood -- home to the second largest Mexican community in the United States. It is the only Latino-owned museum accredited by the American Association of Museums. The NMMA purchased WCYC-FM, a Class D radio station, in 1996 from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. In 1997, the call letters were changed to WRTE-FM and the station turned into Radio Arte, Latino Public Community Radio.

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