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KUSF Update: Independent Arts and Media Protests Sale, KDFC Has Eye on South Bay, and Protest Tonight


Yesterday it was announced that college radio station KUSF’s frequency and transmitter was being sold to a new public radio group, Classical Public Radio Network, owned by University of Southern California (USC). As part of the deal the commercial classical radio station KDFC will now convert to a non-commercial station and broadcast of KUSF’s frequency of 90.3 FM.

One of the first official letters of protest was released today by the non-profit group Independent Arts and Media. As a financial supporter of KUSF, Independent Arts and Media is calling for a re-examination of the proposed station sale is offering up an alternate plan.  In a press release this morning they state:

“The $3.75 million sale of KUSF-FM by the University of San Francisco will have a chilling effect on the culture, community and civic life of San Francisco, the Bay Area, and beyond…We respectfully request a moratorium on the sale and a grace period enabling the KUSF-FM volunteers, through the agency of Friends of KUSF, to develop and execute the following plans:

* A financing strategy to raise $4 million for the purchase of the station and to seed startup operations for the station in an off-campus setting

* An operations plan detailing station management, staffing, policies and oversight by the Friends of KUSF Executive Board.”

The letter goes on to state that the station sale would not be in the public interest of San Francisco residents because it will eliminate “a culturally diverse, community-run outlet for independent music, arts, ideas and news. Replacing KUSF’s broadcast signal with an online-only signal will also put KUSF out of reach of anyone without broadband Internet access due to financial, technological or educational barriers.”

In other news today,  KUSF Music Director Irwin Swirnoff and President of KUSC Radio Brenda Barnes appeared on the KQED talk show Forum to discuss the radio station “shake up” in the Bay Area yesterday. Irwin eloquently articulated KUSF’s role for the San Francisco community as a “cultural oasis..with shows in 9 different languages… and a range of eclectic music programming.” He also revealed that the shut down of KUSF happened while students and faculty at University of San Francisco were still on winter break, hampering their abilities to organize effectively. He said, “Yesterday was extremely shocking, sad, and disturbing” and added that the timing during a school break meant that, “It didn’t allow us to mobilize the community, mobilize the media…”

While Brenda Barnes of KUSC said that the current discussions about the purchase of KUSF begin last Spring, but that they had actually been having conversations about a potential purchase with University of San Francisco for “several years.” She said that she was sympathetic to the feelings of KUSF staffers, but spent more time in the interview discussing plans for the future non-commercial KDFC. She also indicated that the station will be expanding its playlist and also hopes to extend its reach into the South Bay, calling it a “top priority” since the current coverage area will not reach as far south as they would like. In a statement sure to frighten any of us involved with non-commercial radio in the South Bay, she said, “…we’ll be looking for stations that are for sale,” adding that, they are not courting stations who have not been put up for sale, saying,”we haven’t gone to anyone and said, ‘would you sell us your station.'”

Last night I wrapped up the day’s events on Spinning Indie, after following the news throughout the day on Radio Survivor. Tonight there will be a meeting at Phelan Hall at 6:00pm, followed by a protest at 7pm at Fromm Hall. Organizers have set up a Save KUSF website and Facebook page in order to help spread the word.

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13 Responses to KUSF Update: Independent Arts and Media Protests Sale, KDFC Has Eye on South Bay, and Protest Tonight

  1. - anonymous - January 19, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Can somebody explain why USC, that already controls 5 radio stations in the So Cal market, needs another one hundreds of miles to the north in SF, and maybe also yet another one soon in the San Jose market.

    How does it serve the educational mission of any school anywhere to operate multiple radio stations that aren’t even run by students, except for a few token “interns” who are allowed to read the school lunch menu?

  2. chats January 19, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    With all due respect… “Respectfully requesting” anything from the powers that be in our “educational” institutions is an act of futility, as seen at Rice University and, quite possibly, at Vanderbilt. Earlier well-supported “respectful” actions in Austin and Boston and elsewhere drew little notice from the corporate collective. Wouldst that our respect had given way to an early tongue-in-cheek suggestion for publicizing the effort: marinate the dean’s office in pig blood.

  3. Douglas January 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    How about an educated, enlightened, effective response? This is a business deal. The University is trying to pay it’s bills. The purchasing party is trying to make a profit, mostly, probably from ad sales on its stations. So let’s find out the parties involved. If we have any passion and any staying power, let’s show them. I think KUSC is a part of it. If we make it clear that we will boycott the stations and their advertisers, they won’t be able to make any money off the deal. It may affect the behavior of the purchasing party. Whadaya say?

  4. Steve January 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    KUSF is an AMAZING station and people should angrily PROTEST its disappearance…except for one small item. Down here about 25 miles south of San Francisco, one never could pick up KUSF’s signal, so its “BAY AREA” influence was questionable. Let’s remember that most of the many millions of Bay Area residents live outside of the city limits of San Francisco.

    Bottom line: Stop whining, focus on the Web stream, and rebuild.

  5. Jennifer Waits January 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Steve, I think you are referring to the “Bay Area” mention in the Independent Arts and Media press release, correct? You bring up an interesting point, but I’d like to add that many of us in the Bay Area listen to a number of different stations depending upon where we live AND where we drive.

    I live in San Francisco and listened to KUSF in my car in neighborhoods where I could get a signal. I also regularly drive to the South Bay and listen to KFJC and KZSU. I also tune into KALX when I’m in range. And, I know from Djing at KFJC that many of our listeners are commuters who may live outside of our broadcast area, but catch us in their cars to and from work or while waiting for BART or CalTrain.

    And, of course, the broader influence of all of these stations can be found in their online audiences (although those audiences are MUCH smaller than the terrestrial audiences).

    Everyone at KUSF is still in shock as it’s only been about 24 hours since this all came down. And they have every right to get their questions answered, protest, and communicate their displeasure to those who set up these deals. And, of course, the FCC still has to approve all of these station sales before anything is a done deal.

  6. Jennifer Waits January 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    UPDATE on 7pm meeting tonight (from USF website):

    “A meeting will be held on January 19, at 7:00 PM, and USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., will be present to answer questions from all constituents. Seats in the front will be reserved for KUSF staff and volunteers, and USF employees and students.

    Please note: To accommodate more attendees, the location of the meeting has been moved to Presentation Theater, 2350 Turk Boulevard (at Masonic), San Francisco.”

  7. phil allen January 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Yet again..the Bay Area, for those old enough to remember, was once a mighty source of radio goodness. I was part of 2 failed attempts to save ‘unique’ commercial formats (KMPX/FM-II; KKCY/FM, ‘The City’. Yes,..once, there were even verry good commercial stations. The immediate question I have is, will KDFC resume being a ‘real’ classic station, or is it going to continue to play the feel-good jelly it’s known for today?

    Folks, hope is all we have. Justice can be had at a price, but don’t expect any from the FCC, AKA ‘Media Goebbels’.

    Like all the other losses, this hurts personally, most especially in the manner staff was invited to leave. Like at KPFA a few years ago.

    I intend to keep informed. I live in my car,..can’t do much else.

  8. Jennifer Waits January 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Phil–On Forum this morning Brenda Barnes talked about the new KDFC’s planned programming, saying that they will be “stretching out” musically…”effective Monday at noon” and will play more vocal music, chorale music, whole pieces, and chamber music, “broadening the playlist quite considerably.” They will continue to air the Metropolitan Opera, which KUSF has been airing on the weekends.

    I have no idea if their plan to broaden the playlist means that they will play more adventurous classical, modern classical, or avant garde music, though.

  9. Dan January 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Don’t let the bright light from a valued engineering class on The Hilltop go out. Ghost of Fr. Neri – make it so! Maybe if the price is right we Dons can now be made into Trojans attending the next USC campus annex. You know other valuable assets like Lone Mountain could bring a pretty penny compared to when the cemetaries surrounded it.

    That’s what happens when you lose your way and start acting like a corporation. Way to be forthright with your students Fr. President. The lack of propriety is amazing. I’m sure Xavier’s old in house media man Fr. Sunderland watches, greatly disappointed. Please make sure no one is left on the main campus since the protest seems to have been moved.

  10. Steve January 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Jennifer–I thank you for your insanely polite response. Let me see if I can figure out another way to say this. It’s pretty clear that, slowly but surely, terrestrial radio is dying, and so called “Internet Radio” is continuing to emerge. Examples abound: 1) CBS buys another FM signal, tries two different formats, then hangs it up and simulcasts KCBS; 2) Entercom goes the two station simulcast route instead of INVESTING in SF; 3) LIVE 105 (CBS again) cans its midday DJ and satellites in its morning show, etc., etc.

    Perhaps, as is not only the case for classical radio in major markets, but for so-called Indie college stations, that may be the next best hope. Yes, it costs some bucks, but one can gear up a system for playing an iPhone via a car system. That’s how I’m rigged, and I can listen to SOMA FM, Radio Paradise, Pandora, Slacker, the BBC, or now…KDFC…in my car if I want to.

    A part of me empathizes: I’m a UMass Amherst Alum and DJ’d at college station WMUA for four years back in the paleolithic era. But the world is changing, and I THINK that USF is a private university, and it can pretty much do what it wants, protests aside. I’d suggest that folks re-focus their energy on trying to make KUSF as big a NATIONAL Indie brand as possible. Yes, KEXP has far more bucks…and terrestrial signals to boot, but perhaps that’s AN aspirational example of what could be…

    Incidentally, I do tune into KJFC from time to time. Good luck to you.

  11. Steve January 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    BTW, second paragraph in my last note…I meant to say “streaming,” as in…streaming may be the next best hope.

  12. Fred kiko January 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    “they” have their sights on ALL college/public radio. You have been notified. will KXLU be next? probably…. what to do? I don’t know. Pray, I guess….

  13. Jennifer Waits January 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Steve—believe me, I see the writing on the wall…But I still don’t like it. I agree that focusing on the web is a good eventual option for KUSF. I’m sure they will be working a multi-pronged approach. KTRU is in a similar situation and I think they all have to just take things one step at a time.

    Terrestrial radio isn’t dead yet, that’s why companies are paying $4 million dollars for licenses.

    I just don’t like what’s happening with the FM radio landscape, as the right side is consolidated and now the left–with religious radio conglomerates and public radio groups. I fear that soon all of the independent stations will get edged out. I still wonder if AM will be the next frontier….And then there’s LPFM, although it seems unlikely that licenses will be available in the SF Bay Area.

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