An Offer They Couldn’t Refuse

Radio Survivor carried a post from Jennifer Waits about the skullduggery surrounding the sale of another college radio station, KUSF in San Francisco:

There’s a chilling account on the Bay Citizen blog which reports what happened this morning at 10am when college radio station KUSF was taken off the air at University of San Francisco.

DJs reported that suddenly they heard static and were soon escorted out of the station by when KUSF DJs recount what happened when the station was taken off the air at 10am today. People in suits converged on the station and the locks were changed in order to keep out KUSF DJs and volunteers. According to Bay Citizen,

“University spokesman Gary McDonald affirmed that USF had kept information about the station’s sale — which was a $3.75 million dollar deal — quiet, but said that two of the four fulltime workers did know about it.

Discussions, he said, had been taking place for the past few months. ‘The papers were signed on Friday,’ McDonald said. He cited confidential legal reasons as the cause of USF’s silence to their volunteers. While the format change, from radio broadcast to online-only, is obviously the largest change, McDonald also pointed to other transformations in the works. ‘We are going to refocus the station on its primary purpose as a teaching lab for students,’ he said, ‘We are looking at ways to enhance curriculum in digital media.’”

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: (a) We did it behind their backs “for confidential legal reasons,” and (b) we did it for their own good. A local blog, SF Weekly, put it this way:

In a surprise move, University of San Francisco officials today yanked KUSF, its nearly 34-year-old community radio station, off the air, kicking out DJs and staff during the middle of a morning show. The FCC license for 90.3 FM was sold to an organization launching a public classical station in the Bay Area, and KUSF will continue, eventually, as an online-only station….

• Station manager Steve Runyon announced at a summer 2010 meeting that the station faced eviction by USF and may move to Fort Mason. He also mentioned the possibility of the license being sold. Other Jesuit college radio stations, including Los Angeles station KXLU, have had similar actions take place — threats and sales of licenses.

• At the January 2011 meeting it was announced that the station would move to a new building on campus, but there was no mention of losing the FM license.

• USF administrators (including KUSF paid staff) sign a very strict confidentiality agreement, so they’ve always been tight lipped about anything related to station finances, inner workings, and business with the university — hence the “surprise” announcement.

No matter what was known, it’s shocking for such a longstanding feature of the local music and culture scene to disappear so thoroughly and completely (even on the web!), and without any warning.

Their news blog, here, added some nasty details:

USF officials abruptly shut the doors to KUSF, the college’s well-known indie radio station today, locking out students and DJs with no notice.

Security guards walked into the station on campus this morning in the middle of a show and ordered everyone out, according to one student DJ. The university then shut down the station, and allowed staff to go back inside and get their things.

While collecting his stuff, Chad Heimann, a junior and student DJ, picked up a call from SF Weekly.

“It’s shitty,” he said. “Security guards are kicking us out.”

And here, throwing around numbers like they might be true, part (c):

KUSF will still remain as an online radio station, and all staff will be offered similar positions at KUSF.org. University officials defended the move, saying that the online format will give the station more capacity to accommodate “thousands” of listeners as opposed to the 100 listeners it is now limited to, according to the university.

In other news, WDUQ, the public radio station owned by Duquesne University, has been sold to Essential Public Media (EPM), a joint venture of WYEP and Public Media Company (PMC), a nonprofit launched by that eager darling of acquisitions, Public Radio Capital. In a post here, it was reported that the decision came “after the university did not accept an offer, believed to be larger, from the non-profit Pittsburgh Public Media (PPM). PPM had indicated that it would keep the NPR, local news and jazz format.” A separate post, here, on AllBusiness.com reported that PPM is a nonprofit group consisting of station employees and supporters of the current format.

WYEP Board Chairman Marco Cardamone said, “NPR programs that 90.5 listeners are used to hearing will continue but there’s no decision at this time regarding the 100 hours of jazz aired weekly on WDUQ.”

Tom Taylor’s newsletter contained the following item about the sale:

A year of uncertainty ends with the $6 million sale of Pittsburgh non-com WDUQ (90.5).
Duquesne University engendered criticism in Fall 2007 when it ordered WDUQ to cancel the $5,000 underwriting buy from Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. Duquesne President Dr. Charles Dougherty said the announcements conflicted with Catholic doctrine, even though they only mentioned women’s health issues such as breast cancer and STDs – not abortion services. That policy statement roiled the market, and many Pittsburgh observers predicted the university would unload the station after a proper interval. That’s not how the school positions it, of course. It says “the sale not only preserves the public character of the station, it will also allow us to make significant investments in key academic initiatives that are aligned with Duquesne’s strategic plan.” Those include new endowed chairs in African Studies and Mission Studies, plus a new endowment to help grad students. Duquesne certainly could’ve found willing (Protestant) Christian buyers for its nice Class B facility. But the eventual winner of the halting sale process is a new entity named Essential Public Media. It’s a joint venture between local adult alternative pubcaster WYEP (91.3) and a not-for-profit backed by Public Radio Capital, named Public Media Company. PRC’s Marc Hand says a key part of the new business plan is to “include student employment and internships” at Duquesne. Roger Rafson of CMS Station Brokerage repped Duquesne in the $6 million sale.

And this from author Gwen Fortune in Florida, which nicely sums up the whole mess:

Henry A. Giroux | Beyond the Swindle of the Corporate University: Higher Education in the Service of Democracy
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: “Memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely in economic terms. As the center of gravity shifts away from the humanities and the notion of the university as a public good, university presidents ignore public values while refusing to address major social issues and problems. Instead, such administrators now display corporate affiliations like a badge of honor, sit on corporate boards and pull in huge salaries.”

Amen.

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2 Responses

  1. To clarify, by 5:15pm, music from KDFC (a formerly commercial classical station) was being piped in on 90.3 FM. A new non-commercial public radio entity is being set up and KDFC will be under its umbrella.

  2. It’s a frustrating situation at KUSF and part of a bigger shakedown in both commercial and non-commercial radio in San Francisco. Believe it or not, by 5:15 yesterday evening (maybe earlier), programming from the formerly classical public radio station was already being piped in on KUSF’s 90.3 frequency. Everyone is still in shock. Today should be interesting, as there is a meeting/protest at the University of San Francisco at 7pm.

    I’ve been following these stories at other college stations (KTXT, KTRU, WRVU) with dismay and it’s sad to now have it happen in my own city.

    More here:

    http://spinningindie.blogspot.com/2011/01/kusf-taken-off-air-without-warning-and.html

    http://www.radiosurvivor.com/2011/01/18/kdfc-now-airing-classical-music-programming-over-the-former-kusf-frequency/

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