The Dark Side

It gets interestinger and interestinger in San Fran . . . A meeting today of the SF Board of Supervisors will take up the KUSF issue, following a resolution (on Facebook, here) by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi asking USF to reconsider as well as seeking more divine intervention from Congresswoman Pelosi and Senators Boxer and Feinstein. (The local Democratic party has already signed on.) We’ve seen a number of these protests blossom in the past year — most notably in Austin and Boston, followed by Rice University and Vanderbilt, which still has a head of steam built up by some 6,000 Facebook friends. There are indications that Vanderbilt folks are linking up with the SF movement, which has enhanced its power base by enlisting sitting politicians — something that may have been lacking in previous efforts.

The two protests — in Nashville and SF — represent the largest mass outpouring yet, and the continuing struggle is heartening to see, in an urban landscape blighted by consolidation and homogenization. They’ve gone one better over early protests chronicled here and in sister Facebook sites: WUMB in Boston (“Fans of Folk Radio WUMB,” whose page here is probably the longest-running in support of Barnes Newberry), WGBH in Boston (“Supporters of Folk and Blues on WGBH”), KUT in Austin (“Support Larry Monroe and Paul Ray”), as well as numerous other related Facebook pages (cf, “NPR Ate My Local Public Radio Station,” here, and “Community Radio,” here) with links on the right. Join up and share ideas coast to coast.

More info from the Bay: A post on the KUSF Facebook page, now nearing 6,900 friends, from Regina Cunningham yielded this:

I was wondering why there was no coverage of protests by the old listeners of KNDL, and who gets the money from the sale of KNDL. Well, a review of the programming indicates it was mostly satellite radio. Folks with internet access can still hear most of the same programs. As for who owns it, the trail leads to Pacific Union College and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. (Go to eAdventist punkt net; put in KDNL in the search box. On the next screen, click on ‘more info’.) So, they will presumably be using the money to increase the endowment of the college.

Jennifer Waits caught this, and it is reprinted in the KUSF Archives website. Until the sale of KUSF is finalized, USC will pay USF $5,000 a month going up to $7,000 a month. The Adventists are getting $15,000 a month from USC, going up to $20,000 a month. Father Previtt is apparently a pushover.

Regina also passed along this tidbit, explaining why the power grab and the reaction from KDFC listeners to a degraded transmission:

Larry, 89.9 and 90.3 are low power transmitters that are currently transmitting the KDFC classical music programming. Neither can be heard by all the people who can listen to the classic rock programming on 102.1 that formerly carried KDFC’s classical programming. This existing transmitter is a high power unit on Mount Beacon in Marin County. 

Take a look at the “102.1 KDFC” Facebook page and read all the complaints by listeners who can no longer receive classical music programming on 89.9 or 90.3 [here].

Meanwhile, back at the hacienda, the USC J School has a blog called neon tommy.com, and it ran an opinion piece by Russell Newman, Andrew Schrock, and Kevin Driscoll called “USC And Entercom’s Gambit: The Dark Side Of ‘Preserving Classical Music’ In San Francisco,” wading into the imbroglio involving Entercom, USC, and KUSF in San Francisco.

The University of Southern California has announced that it will ‘preserve classical music in San Francisco’ via the purchase of the rights to broadcast there at 90.3 FM and 89.9 FM. The deal, however, is a travesty.

For decades, 90.3 has been the home of the award-winning, University of San Francisco-operated community station KUSF-FM. In an arrangement negotiated behind closed doors between USC, the University of San Francisco, and Entercom — one of the five largest radio station owners in the country — the station was torn from the airwaves last week. Volunteers arrived to find the station behind lock and key; others reported being treated like criminals as they were ushered out in a state of surprise. Preserving classical music from afar should not come at the expense of the cultural and musical communities that are now losing a key hub.

The details are even shadier. In 2008, Entercom purchased San Francisco’s 102.1 FM KDFC-FM, one of the last commercial classical stations in the US. Having recently acquired San Jose’s classic-rock KUFX (relaunched as KFOX this month), they likely sought a way to change from classical to a more profitable format with minimal public relations damage. Via an apparent ‘content swap,’ USC Radio provided a way to do so.

USC would take control of KDFC, change the commercial station into a nonprofit entity, and retain its name and staff. Entercom does not budge: it now uses its valuable slot at 102.1 FM to rebroadcast its San Jose-based classic rock programming to San Francisco, becoming, in their words, a “nine county rock dominator.” Rebroadcasting one’s own content is a great way to cut costs, here coupled with the higher ad revenues the new format would bring. USC Radio would need to find a different home on the dial for its new enterprise, hence the purchase of 90.3. (USC also purchased 89.9 FM from Christian broadcaster Howell Mountain Broadcasting.) USC is reported to have spent $3.75 million to complete the transaction….

Surely it is possible for USC Radio to achieve its goals without assisting one of the largest broadcasters in the country to fatten its bottom line, all at the expense of a valuable, cherished and genuinely local San Francisco voice. With such voices coming under threat across the country, our role should be to support them, not bury them.

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