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Santa Cruz community radio station to weigh selling license to classical network

The Board of Directors of community/public radio station KUSP of the Monterey Bay/Santa Cruz area is holding its annual foundation meeting on Monday, May 4. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the principal item on the agenda will be whether to sell the cash strapped license to the Classical Public Radio Network, which operates classical signals in San Francisco and Southern California.

Needless to say, feelings are running high on this prospect. Here’s a comment on the story identified as coming from Don Mussell, one of KUSP’s founders:

. . . the “Classical” network at KUSP will kill off all local programming and leave nothing but ashes. KUSP will be gone forever, despite any words to the contrary. Just look at the former KUSF in San Francisco, which is now KDFC and a clone of the network. The membership has a final say in this matter, and this is the last chance they have to do something else. KUSP should have dumped the expensive NPR programming years ago, despite the little bump 8 years ago. After all, it does not pay for itself, and the station is not self-sustaining using outside programming. It is simple math. The listeners have voted with their ears. KAZU has deeper, taxpayer funded pockets, and always will. Fighting them for the NPR audience is a losers game. If the KUSP listeners want NPR, they should pay for it. THat the audience has not is telling, for sure.

The KUSP membership needs to take the station back, bring the spending under control, and stop trying the same wrong thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. KUSP has a deep music library, and knowledgeable people willing to give it a go. The current ideas of the management are not going to somehow save the station, it will go away and be gone forever.

Some translation is in order (or at least here’s my best shot): Advocates of NPR programming at KUSP saw it as a vehicle to win back or retain audience taken away by neighboring KAZU. Laden with NPR satellite programming, KAZU is governed by The University Corporation at Monterey Bay, auxiliary to the Cal State University System. Others say that despite the generally acknowledged “bump” in audience and subscriptions, this strategy was always futile and expensive, and that KUSP needs to return to its volunteer “roots.” Certainly this would reduce costs for the signal, over which bankrupcy looms. I’m unclear whether it would it grow the station’s listenership (full disclosure: I was recently asked to consider joining the station’s board, but declined).

Here is a public radio station stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. The foundation’s audit from December 2014 shows that some kind of transition has been in consideration for a while. A “prospective partner” was identified for a Public Service Operating Agreement, the document disclosed. From the Sentinel article I presume that partner was KCRW in Southern California, whose overtures the station eventually rejected (according to the story). “If this strategy proves unsuccessful, the Foundation will seek to assign its business assets and FCC licenses to another entity qualified to operate a public radio station,” the audit continued.

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One Response to Santa Cruz community radio station to weigh selling license to classical network

  1. Coco15 May 4, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    I stopped listening to KUSP when they dropped the “live at lunch” program. We can get NPR elsewhere, I wish they’d drop it. I suspect this is the end of KUSP…….what a shame.

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