Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011-09-18 "Update on the movement to save KUSF college radio 90.3FM in San Francisco" by DJ Rubble
KUSF in Exile DJ and former music director Irwin Swirnoff discusses the ongoing legal and activist fight opposing the January 2011 sale of KUSF to radio conglomerate Entercom and a shadowy “non-profit” radio conglomerate Classical Public Radio Network, reportedly affiliated with the University of Southern California. A petition to deny the sale was filed earlier in the year on the grounds that KUSF has served the local community effectively for decades, while this CPRN is neither local nor in any way fitting the mandate of a non-commercial educational station. (25 minutes)

KUSF IN Exile, with the help of band space donated by popular non-commercial New Jersey music station WFMU, is currently broadcasting its popular menu of music and public affairs shows on the internet from a Bayview studio location as they fight to retain their FM dial space.
KUSF was yanked off the air without even a minute’s notice on January 18 with station personnel forced out by armed security. A $3.75 million sale had been negotiated in secret several months earlier under a corporate “non-disclosure agreement” through a three-way deal between radio conglomerate Entercom - the 5th largest radio corporation in the U.S. - and newly emerging local “non-commercial“ chain Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN).
CPRN took over the long-time classical music station owned and operated by Entercom on 102.1FM, and are currently broadcasting on 90.3FM while they wait for approval of the sale. CPRN has purchased at least 3 Northern California stations and by its own admission is looking to acquire non-commercial stations throughout California. Entercom replaced the commercial station by simulating its San Jose classic rock station KUFX. So KUSF, a musical treasure and home of many really good public affairs shows for about 33 years, is replaced by simulcast classic rock and a really bad classical music station.
While trying to pedal their station as educational (simply by virtue of being in the business of classical music), as mandated by FCC guidelines for the left end of the dial, CPRN is anything but non-commercial. It apparently has big money (Entercoms?) to be buying up numerous stations for millions of dollars each. It broadcasts right out of Entercom’s studios. Listening will tell you the rest. Between poor quality music, bland, monotone announcers frequently direct listeners to a site ( in which everything broadcast on the station along with trivia like mugs and tee shirts can be purchased. Faithful listeners of the 102.1FM classical station are very disappointed in the deteriorated quality.
After getting absolutely nowhere trying to deal with a hostile KUSF administration led by President Father Privett, KUSF filed a petition to deny the sale with the FCC. KUSF’s objective is to get a live hearing with the FCC in hopes of overturning the sale. If successful, this will be a first of a kind victory. Getting to a hearing will be an unprecedented step.
The FCC has been rubber-stamping corporate station purchases for years on the commercial part of the dial and more recently allowing “repeater“ stations easy access for licenses while making it virtually impossible for new community-based stations to enter the market. Congress has recently mandated that the FCC develop a plan to open the left end of the dial equitably for new low power FM stations. The FCC is basically allowing a corporate oligopoly on the dial, filled with about 5,000 repetitive big money songs and AP wire service news from profit-making conglomerates. Artificial scarcity of dial spaces and unrealistic barriers to enty such as costs in the millions for the intangible asset of a broadcast license keep low budget stations out while government-financed NPR and a national religious network control most non-commercial public affairs. Activist have long criticized a cozy relationship between the FCC and broadcast lobby arm the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
After the sale and shutdown, KUSF assembled a legal team and has been fundraising continuously to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. They continue to broadcast on internet and sponsor enjoyable music and cultural events around the city. While their relationship as the University of San Francisco’s radio station is dead, they want to continue operating on 90.3 as a self-financed station and can make this happen if they can get the sale overturned and maintain the dial space.
A number of legal actions have occurred since the petition has been filed, some of them fairing well for the prospect of an FCC hearing. Early on, two separate requests by CPRN to move the transmitter from the USF campus to Marin County were denied after a number of stations wrote in opposing the move. KUSF had help from surrounding college stations at UC Berkeley, Foothill College, and Stanford University. The local stations filed reports in opposition to the move because it could cause interference in their existing signals and because CPRN is a predator chain, going up and down the state looking to buy other small community-based stations in an effort to match their once large corporate station.
The issue has become a rallying cry for college radio enthusiast nationally, the “death of college radio” as well-finance conglomerates like NPR continue to buy up station licenses by offering incredibly inflated prices to cash-strapped colleges happy to get out of the radio business. Thus we are seeing the dissolution of community-based non-commercial radio nationally, and many college stations are allied with KUSF in this fight. Recent sales of popular stations at Rice University in Houston, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh have raised eyebrows, as is an impending sale of the Vanderbilt University station in Nashville.
On June 28, the FCC sent an unprecedented written inquiry to the parties in the sale, requesting answers to 15 detailed questions related to the sale and subsequent operating maneuvers. Friends of KUSF attorney Alan Korn is quoted, “The letter means that the FCC is giving serious consideration to the issues submitted in our Petition, along with objections raised by others“. The attorney’s describe the submissions to these 15 questions as quite evasive. Attorney Peter Franck is quoted “This action by the University is one more action which demonstrates that the parties to this whole transaction act as if the FCC was nothing more than a rubber stamp. In fact approving this sale would violate the FCC’s duty to act in the public interest, as we will point out further if the FCC grants our petition to set the whole matter for a public hearing.”
KUSF’s Irwin Swirnoff reports improprieties by USF Administration. Apparently, USF president-turned -dictator Father Privett reported that he could not supply E-Mails required because he had erased them. In violation of FCC regulations, USF dismantled the KUSF studio without FCC approval with the proposed sale still pending. In my interview, Irwin alluded to numerous legally dubious maneuvers around the sale. National conversation and involvement has developed as a result of KUSF’s efforts. Broadcast attorney John Garziglia was recently quoted in an industry journal, “The FCC’s staff for some time now has been aware that non-commercial stations have been entering into (Local Marketing Agreements) for what is essentially the sale of broadcast time. It appears the FCC is finally asking questions about this. In a sense, the buyer and the seller dared the FCC staff to ask more questions.”
A spirited save KUSF rally was held in late August at the Entercom broadcasting offices in the South of Market area. Despite acting as if an independent non-commercial outlet, CPRN is broadcasting on 90.3 right out of that Entercom office. SF Supervisor and mayoral candidate John Avalos addressed the crowd, calling KUSF an “island against” the commercialization of the left end of the dial. Avalos told the crowd, “It was a San Francisco station. We need to do more to make sure that KUSF does continue.” Avalos was previously part of an 8-3 Board of Supervisor’s vote on a resolution to oppose the sale. Supervisors Mirkarimi and Mar co-sponsored the resolution and mayoral candidate Leland Yee has spoken out in support.
Activism is needed to make this happen. You can find out how to get involved by accessing the website [], , where you can listen to the internet station, contact station personnel, find out about fun community-based fundraising and outreach events, and access broadcast archives.

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