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Host of KUSF’s “Folk Law” Pursues Legal and FCC Actions to Halt KUSF Sale

Daniel Everett at SF City Hall at Save KUSF Protest Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo: J. Waits)

It can be challenging to stay on top of every detail, protest, or FCC action related to the pending sale of University of San Francisco’s college radio station KUSF to Classical Public Radio Network, as there’s been a busy and active fight led primarily by Save KUSF ever since the FM station was shut down on January 18, 2011.

Recently I was trolling through the FCC database and found something in the KUSF section that hadn’t garnered any news. Daniel Everett, the host of the KUSF legal advice show “Folk Law” and a graduate student at University of San Francisco (USF), had submitted a “Petition for Reconsideration” on May 19, 2011 regarding the approved KUSF transmitter move request (which had been sanctioned by the FCC on April 12).

According to Everett’s Petition for Reconsideration:

“…Petitioner alleges that moving the transmitter would allow the University of San Francisco…to willfully disregard a contract it has with Student. The terms of that contract allow Student the right to access the broadcast radio station KUSF as part of his studies at University.  The Commission’s decision to allow for the move of the transmitter will cut off Petitioner’s ability to use this contracted for educational resource.  Thus, Petitioner, as a graduate student at the University of San Francisco – with a contract to broadcast a radio program on KUSF in conjunction with his studies – will be directly harmed by the Commission’s decision to allow for the move of the transmitter, the use of which is an explicit and implied part of his educational contract with the University.”

He goes on to argue that his radio program and the focus of his graduate study in the Masters of Public Affairs program at USF were intertwined and that he even sought grant funding to help with the overall project of reaching out to under-served populations through his legal advice radio show. His Petition for Reconsideration states:

“…before the fall 2010 term, Student entered into a valid contract with the University, whereby Student agreed to pay tuition in exchange for admittance into the University’s Masters of Public Affairs Program…and also for the use of its broadcast radio station KUSF, in conjunction with his studies in that program.  A provision in the contract agreement held that an attempt to assign Student’s broadcast time slot… would be void for all purposes – if not undertaken with Student’s consent.

With this agreement in mind, Student entered into a grant proposal competition where the winner would receive money from the University to help fund their proposal.  Student’s submission involved his KUSF radio program, Folk Law, – which had a format that addressed the needs of poor and minority residents in the community.  In an effort to involve all levels of the University, Student met with the University Provost, Jennifer Turpin, and the President of the University, Stephen Privett, on November 10th of last year.  During the course of the meeting, Student’s contract with USF was discussed as well as his desire to use his radio program in conjunction with his studies…

At no time during the meeting did the President of the University, Stephen Privett, or the Provost Dr. Turpin mention that they were currently in negotiations to sell the Station.  This conduct amounts to a material misrepresentation concerning the transfer of the broadcast license.”

It turns out that this May letter to the FCC was part of a series of actions by Everett. Back in March he approached the Superior Court of California with a case against University of San Francisco (USF). In a letter dated March 24, 2011, Everett sought a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order against USF. At issue for Everett was the shut down of KUSF and the loss of access to the station to conduct his radio program “Folk Law.” Everett argues that the loss of the show is a breach of contract with the university in which he is enrolled.

The document states:

“This case arises out of an attempt by a Private University to subvert the valid contractual interests of a student…and thereby wholly deprive Student of his ability to pursue his educational objectives ..Student has a graduate school contract with University which gives him certain express and implied rights…the terms of the contract between USF and Student require University to allow Student to use the University owned and operated broadcast radio station, KUSF 90.3 FM …in conjunction with Student’s graduate coursework and studies…”

In USF’s opposition to Everett’s letter, their lawyer Robert A. Trodella writes, “The FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over the assignment process…By seeking a restraining order and an injunction over what the University can and cannot do with a given time slot of programming, Mr. Everett is in effect working to block assignment of the underlying license, an issue that can only be resolved with the FCC.” He goes on to argue that “there is no irreparable injury to Mr. Everett” and that “…he was invited to continue to provide his program on the University’s internet radio station…although the University replaced its over-the-air radio content, it continues to stream its internet radio station online and has made continued use of that resource available to former programmers. The educational objectives Mr. Everett refers to can just as easily be accomplished by streaming radio.”

United States District Court Judge Claudia Wilken denied Everett’s requests for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against USF on April 8, 2011.

When I interviewed Everett this week via email, he shared with me some of the back story behind his communications with USF and with the FCC:

Jennifer Waits/Radio Survivor: Why do you think that a terrestrial radio broadcast of Folk Law is vital to your graduate studies (vs. an Internet broadcast)?

Daniel Everett: I had contracted to broadcast a specific radio program in conjunction with my studies at USF.  That program, Folk Law – addressed the needs of low income – disproportionately minority residents of San Francisco.  My goal was to use my studies in conjunction with the radio program – essentially using the program and broadcast facilities as an educational tool.  Radio is a means of communication that has remained accessible to the rich and the poor alike.  In contrast, it is often taken for granted that many low – income people do not have access to Internet-based technologies, such as computers, iPhones, iPads, etc.  It is a shame that the University disregarded the growing technological and economic divide when they proffered an educational alternative that could not effectively serve the public good.

Folk Law sought to specifically use radio as a means of fostering connections with residents that often feel cast aside and left behind.  Likewise, my motivation for enrolling in the University was to help these very same individuals.  Thus, just as my program cannot be as effective over the Internet, my graduate learning was greatly undermined when Folk Law lost its terrestrial broadcast listenership.

JW: Can you briefly describe the legal actions that you filed against USF?

DE: I had a contract to air Folk Law in conjunction with my enrollment in the Master of Public Affairs Program at the University of San Francisco.  Evidence of this can be explicitly seen in the “Statement of Purpose” that I submitted in conjunction with my application.  The most relevant excerpt of that statement reads as follows:

“It is my eventual goal to use my background in broadcast journalism, my legal work with the poor, and education gained from a Master of Public Affairs degree to give a voice to low income residents of San Francisco.  Towards this end, I am currently applying for a radio show at KUSF.  The format would include discussions of legal issues that are relevant and beneficial to the City’s low income residents, including: renters’ rights, health care disparities, disability law, etc.

The radio format will be a powerful tool in helping mobilize stakeholders within SF’s underrepresented communities so that their legal, and thus political, interests are properly represented.  In short, I would utilize grass roots organizing, radio broadcasting, and the legal system to act as an advocate for SF residents.”

The University breached its obligations under the aforementioned contract when it discontinued my ability to broadcast my programming, in conjunction with my studies.

JW: Was there any resolution on their part?

DE: No

JW: Did you receive a response from the FCC or USF regarding your Petition for Reconsideration?

DE: I have not received a response from USF or the FCC.


Complete Radio Survivor coverage about the proposed sale of KUSF can be found here. I also wrote about my reaction to the KUSF shut down and to the Save KUSF Multi-Station Live Broadcast on Spinning Indie.  My article chronicling my KUSF field trip 2 years ago is housed there too. For more on the bigger picture of college radio station sell-offs, see my December 2009 piece “Cash-strapped Schools Turn Their Backs on College Radio“. And, for a quick overview of the situation at KUSF, see my article, “The Story Behind the KUSF Shutdown” on PopMatters.


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2 Responses to Host of KUSF’s “Folk Law” Pursues Legal and FCC Actions to Halt KUSF Sale

  1. Jeff July 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    IANAL. However, I am not surprised that the FCC did not respond yet to the petition to reconsider the move of the transmitter site. If anything, the new transmitter plant should allow more people to be able to listen to the Folk Law program. The problem is that USF leased out the station to USC/CPRN. To me, this is lobbing another mortar round into the USF’s adminstrative offices. Perhaps Mr. Everett is seeking to practice his legal skills. Or maybe he just wants to “Stick it to the Man”!

  2. Gina July 15, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Daniel Everett brought up valid points in his Petition for Reconsideration. The comparative ease of reception of Terrestrial radio versus Internet radio is such an important point he makes. Tuning a radio and listening to an over-the-air frequency, an activity equally accessible to virtually everybody, means we are all able to be included and benefit. However taking that (the over-the-air broadcast) away from the public means the have-less crowd is denied access. In many cases, they’re completely “locked out”. Even I, who certainly have access to a computer, do not have mobile internet in any shape or form… so if I want to listen to Internet radio, I have to be sitting in this desk chair and hear it through my computer’s speakers. Not only does it sound fairly terrible in this format (small built-in speakers), but I can’t just sit at a desk and listen to the radio — it’s wholly inconvenient… and impractical! But at this point, if I want to listen I MUST be at my desk. For people who don’t have a computer at all or an expensive smart phone, iPad, etc. (and the costly service plans that go with them) there’s no longer any access to non-terrestrial formatted broadcasts at all. I hope one day soon I will be able to listen to “my” #KUSF at 90.3 on the dial again. Fight for us as you fight for yourself, Mr. Everett!

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