Liberty U. to buy its own TV station

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Liberty U. to buy its own TV station

While reading the local paper, I found a little blurb that raised my eyebrows a bit:

Reposted from The Roanoke Times: (

Liberty U. seeks to buy WDRL-TV

The Roanoke-Lynchburg station would promote the school's activities, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said.

Liberty University hopes to extend its regional influence with the purchase of a Roanoke-Lynchburg television station that could help evangelist Jerry Falwell promote the school's sporting and religious events.

The possible sale of WDRL-TV, an independent station aired on Channel 24, requires approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the Federal Communications Commission. Liberty has offered roughly $6 million for the station, said Jerry Falwell Jr., vice chancellor and general counsel for the university.

University officials are confident they'll get formal approval from the FCC in about 90 days. In the meantime, Liberty will operate the station under a temporary broadcasting agreement.

"We will use the station to recruit students and make the local public more aware of events at LU," the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. said in an e-mail Monday. "Liberty University has owned a low-powered station in Lynchburg for many years but has always sought a full-power station that must be carried by all cable systems in the market. WDRL accomplishes that objective."

If the new ownership is approved, Falwell said he expects to broadcast Sunday services from Thomas Road Baptist Church and televise shows from prominent pastors. University officials said shows will be "similar ... but more varied" to current programs on LU's ministries' radio station, WRVL-FM, and the low-powered WTLU-TV.

Falwell indicated that the Roanoke station would boost Liberty's recruiting, campus events and sports coverage.

"More established schools are well covered in the broadcast media," he said. "LU is just trying to close the gap a little."

Currently, the Roanoke station offers sports coverage and reruns of general interest shows including "Mad About You" and "The Nanny."

Melvin Eleazer, who has owned WDRL-TV for about 13 years, said he was pleased by the March 5 offer by his "friend," Falwell. He said the former UPN station became an independent station in September 2006. Eleazer said he'll initially remain at the Roanoke station.

"I'll follow whatever he [Falwell] wants to do, that is his decision," Eleazer said. "I may remain on for a few years or a couple of months, I haven't decided."

The station reaches about 445,840 television households in the Roanoke-Lynchburg-Danville areas.

Nielsen Media Research ranks the Roanoke metro area 68th out of 210 markets, just behind Wichita, Kan., and nudging ahead of Green Bay, Wis., according to Laura James, vice president of client communications.

Communications lawyer George Borsari, of the Washington firm Borsari & Paxson that represents WDRL, said he knows of no opposition to the possible change in ownership.

"The FCC must approve the transaction," Borsari said. "Nothing can be done in terms of the sale until the FCC has had a chance to review and approve it."

University officials said studios would be maintained in Danville, as required by the FCC, and in Lynchburg.

While lawyers say WDRL is profitable, the station in July filed for debt relief under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Virginia, in Danville.

A hearing on the bankruptcy issue in Danville is scheduled for Wednesday, said lawyer Howard Beck Jr.

Liberty intends to purchase all the station's assets and the license to transmit analog and digital television signals currently held by MNE Broadcasting, according to court records.

University officials plan to eventually upgrade to a digital signal by 2009, as required by the FCC.

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