This has been a busy week for the Save KUSF crew, with a faculty-led teach-in taking place at University of San Francisco on Monday, just as paperwork opposing the proposed station sale of KUSF to Classical Public Radio Network was being filed in Washington, D.C. with the FCC. At the teach-in, faculty, students, alumni, and KUSF volunteers expressed their concerns about the pending station sale. They also pointed out the many ways in which the radio station had enhanced campus life during its nearly 34-year-old history, with students and alums explaining the impact that the station has had on their college experiences, lives, and careers.
And, on the opposite coast, Friends of KUSF submitted a Petition to Deny with the FCC regarding the proposed sale of University of San Francisco’s college radio station KUSF to Classical Public Radio Network. In the 82-page document, they argue that the station sale is not in the public interest. Among the many points made in the petition, they suggest that:
1. It’s unclear if Classical Public Radio Network is actually a qualified educational entity (which is a requirement to own a non-commercial educational radio license) and point out that it had not been registered as a non-profit organization prior to the filing
2. The proposed program service of Classical Public Radio Network does not serve an educational purpose
3. University of San Francisco prematurely relinquished control of its station
4. When inspected by the public, the KUSF Public File did not include required documents, including the sale and operating agreement
5. Station Identification was not properly announced over the airwaves of 90.3 FM following the station’s takeover by Classical Public Radio Network
6. The former KUSF did serve an educational purpose, with connections to the Media Studies department at USF
The Petition to Deny also points to the larger context of consolidation in the radio industry and the current threat to non-commercial educational broadcasters, stating:
“Commission action on the current application must be seen and evaluated in light of the Commission’s responsibility for the creating and promoting a larger and more effective noncommercial, educational broadcast service. The Commission is under an obligation, as both an adjudicatory body and a quasi-legislative body to review this transaction as part of a national attempt by a small number of broadcasters interested only in lowest-cost syndicated musical programming to absorb and destroy college radio stations that serve unique and diverse functions.”
The Petition to Deny states that airing programming from commercial radio station KDFC on a non-commercial station (KUSF) with simply the commercials removed, does not necessarily meet the qualifications of a non-commercial educational broadcaster:
“the proposed assignee has already taken over all programming on KUSF, originating from KDFC’s downtown San Francisco studios and using that station’s former hosts. The new program service consists entirely of classical music previously broadcast by the commercial KDFC (including consistent station ID’s and repetitive mentions of KDFC)...The import of this is striking: 100-per-cent of a commercial station’s program content is transferred over to a ‘noncommercial’ station, with the commercials excised. The Commission might conclude that this is a noncommercial service. But the Commission should conclude as a matter of law that it can never be considered an educational service without some other detailed program plans in mitigation.”
In an interesting twist, the Petition to Deny delves into the contents of Classical Public Radio Network Manager Director Brenda Barnes’ PhD dissertation, arguing that this could be construed as a business plan for Classical Public Radio Network’s future as an online “music discovery service.” The Petition to Deny further states that this focus on new media calls into question Classical Public Radio Network’s desire to be focused on a terrestrial radio service for a local community in San Francisco, as there is the suggestion that they want to use the station as a “barker channel” to draw people to an Internet service. It states:
“The clear purpose of this transaction is not to enhance broadcasting in the public interest, but rather, to use the license and transmitter of KUSF to develop an internet-based music resource. Brenda Barnes is both President of USC Radio and the Managing Director of Applicant CPRN. The Barnes Plan lays out in 216 pages a ‘plan for creating a New Media Music Discovery Service.’ …As Ms. Barnes says ‘. . . a major issue for KUSC is loss of revenue from Southern California listeners as they gravitate toward new media, [therefore] a long term goal is to generate more revenue from outside the KUKSC [sic] listening area.’…The envisioned Musical Discovery Services (MDS) simply is not a broadcast service, but rather is a point-to-point billboard promoting classical music by Internet.”
Additionally, the Petition to Deny includes statements by students, alumni, and faculty of USF recounting the educational role that KUSF has played on campus. Although we’ve heard accounts from USF President Father Privett about the small number of students served by the station; it’s clear from the filing that students have benefited from KUSF. The Petition to Deny states,
“the USF Department of Media Studies used the station as a teaching laboratory, with students learning production skills as well as using the station as a ‘best practices’ model in University courses addressing media-related issues. In addition to serving as a location for teaching, mentoring, internships, and workshop experiences for thousands of USF students and alumni, KUSF serviced as a resource for faculty seeking a wider audience for their research. Approximately 25% to 50% of students in USF’s Dept. of Media Studies used the station in some way, and in many instances it is what brought them to USF in the first place…Literally hundreds of KUSF alumni have gone on to national and international prominence as radio programmers and producers, musicians, writers, managers, record executives and more.”
In other news, KUSF filed a request with the FCC to move the KUSF transmitter off campus to a shared transmitter site on a hill in Sausalito. In their request for “expedited processing,” they explain that they are asking to move the transmitter on behalf of Classical Public Radio Network and argue that, “Because, upon approval by the FCC, the license will be transferred to an entity not controlled by the university, it is necessary to relocate the station’s transmitter site. Additionally, due to the sensitive nature of the license transfer, the proposed assignee wishes to maintain better control of access to the transmitter and antenna which now must be handled through USF security personnel.” No doubt this request will also be met with opposition, as it’s another example of USF potentially ceding control of the station to an outside entity prior to FCC approval.
In the meantime, Save KUSF is working on a number of projects related to the goal of both preventing the sale of KUSF and bringing their programming back to the airwaves (WFMU has even offered to temporarily host a webstream for “KUSF in Exile” while they are fighting the sale. Save KUSF is exploring this option, which is also contingent upon finding studio space.). At the moment, fund raising is still critical, as lawyer fees have exceeded expectations.
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.