IR: San Francisco | Episode #5: Save KUSF

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Yes, it’s true, at least for the time being, the face of San Francisco culture has changed: KUSF is off the air. And I wanted to address that on Insomnia Radio: San Francisco. So I did with this special themed episode. Share it, crank it, make your voice heard.

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Download IR: SF Episode #5

At exactly 10:00 am on Tuesday 18 January 2011, representatives of the University of San Francisco, entered the studios, began changing locks, escorting the volunteers and there in-studio guests out of the building with armed guards, and in the middle of a record shut off the transmitter. No sign off, just white noise.

Only a week before, our staff and volunteer station managers, program coordinators, etc, had been shown new, though smaller, rooms for the station, and told that we would be moving in before the end of Spring semester. So after living with the uncertainty of what USF wanted to do with the station for the last several years, we thought we had the answer. So imagine the shock and awe those volunteers felt when this all happened.

What happened was the university sold the transmitter license and their frequency (90.3 fm) to KUSC for their Classical Radio Network, and that Bay Area classical station KDFC moved down the dial from it’s old frequency of 102.1 fm and began broadcasting on 90.3 fm later that afternoon. San Jose classic rock station KUFX (The Fox) began repeating their broadcast on 102.1 fm.  KUSC also bought a Christian station, at 89.9 fm in the North Bay and began broadcasting KDFC’s programming. KDFC lost some coverage to the south of SF, but they are proudly looking to buy a frequency down there too.

University President, Father Stephen Previtt held a meeting with over 500 volunteers, staff, students and community members on Wednesday 19 January to answer questions. He began by making it clear that his first concern was with the benefit of the students of the university, and that the community didn’t weight that much on his decision. It was pointed out by the students in attendance that this happen of Winter Break when few students and faculty were on campus. And part of the license agreement with the FCC is that the holder will act in the interest of the public which it serves. Also when asked why the station wasn’t offered to community groups or why they took the first and old offer, Father Previtt said he couldn’t under a non-disclosure agreement.

One has to wonder how, other than money in the university treasury, how it benefits the students (especially the broadcast and media students) to divest of a world-famous, standard-setting, FCC licensed Bay Area Cultural Icon like KUSF in lieu of a Web-based format. Especially when they sold the transmitter license and frequency for $3.75 million and $7k monthly lease of transmitter location (The top of Phelan Hall gave KUSF a far larger reach for it’s 3000 watts), especially when in 2006 they were told that they would be dumb to sell the station for an $8 million windfall.

San Francisco takes it’s culture seriously, though often it also takes it for granted. But when KUSF when off the air, something sparked. The community as come together in an effort to Save KUSF. A week to the day after KUSF went off the air, and after attending Father Previtt’s “Forum”, SF Supervisor Ross Mikarimi introduced a resolution to the SF Board of Supervisors to Save KUSF, to fight the sale as part of a larger corporate media grab, and return this cultural icon to the community and the airwaves. There has been lots of positive support from the community, both inside and outside the university, both of the programming and any efforts to make a counter offer if the university can not be convinced to keep the license.

The fight has just begun. And we have a lot of support. The papers were just filed with the FCC this week, and there is a 30 day window for the community to register complaints. We can make history and stop this sale, or at least delay it so we can make a counter offer. And keep KUSF, or a community-radio version of it alive in the Bay Area.

The Songs

Links to Information of KUSF, the closure, and how you can help