Behind Enemy Lines

The folks fighting for station WRVU at Vanderbilt have kept up the pressure, sending out this release yesterday:

Fellow college radio stations KTRU and KUSF are in more advanced stages of a fight for survival — both found themselves in the predicament of having no warning before having their transmitter silenced and locks to their studios changed. In both instances, student, political, and public pressure is being put on the responsible parties to undo these wrongs.

This recent article in PopMatters highlights some interesting points, particularly that radio conglomerates are on the prowl — “radio conglomerates actively shopping for non-commercial radio licenses.” Which means these transmitter licenses have value and based on this new interest to back-end of the FM dial, will continue to hold value, particularly as this area is further consolidated. Unfortunately, it also seems that the FCC are green-lighting this consolidation, but appeals are in the works for both cases. Only time will tell how these very unpopular decisions will affect FCC rulings. FCC, one would hope, would take pause of community station consolidation after the national disgrace that is the current state of commercial radio.

These points and others make up a cautionary tale to WRVU and to others.

Side Note: Even though KUSF is garnering most of the attention in regard to college radio consolidation issues, keep in mind that is a relative 34-year-old baby compared to the nearly 60 year-old institution that is WRVU.

The aforementioned article on PopMatters, by radio activist Jennifer Waits (of Radio Survivor and Spinning Indie) added the following:

It’s easy to demonize University of San Francisco for making a greedy decision and for not providing KUSF’s volunteer DJs with an opportunity to buy the station. It’s also easy to cast aspersions at University of Southern California for funding the deal that may kill KUSF. As paperwork is scrutinized and dots are connected, many are also pointing fingers at Public Radio Capital and the radio brokers who go out and arrange these deals. And there’s frustration that the FCC will most likely approve this sale, as their post—Telecommunications Act of 1996 policies have facilitated rampant consolidation in the radio industry (which until recently wasn’t as prevalent on the non-commercial side of the dial).

So, the situation at KUSF is not just a story about fighting the loss of an independent media outlet; it’s also a cautionary tale for every college radio station. To that end, WFMU General Manager Ken Freedman came out to San Francisco to meet with Save KUSF volunteers in order to offer advice about fighting a station sale and also to share how he was able to successfully transition WFMU from a college radio station to an independent community radio station. To help raise awareness about recent station sales, he’s also moderating the panel How to Save College Radio” at South by Southwest (SXSW) on March 19.

Representatives from both KUSF and KTRU will take part in the panel discussion in the hopes that they can spread the word about the accelerating pace of college radio station sales and help prevent the sell-off of even more stations. In the meantime, KUSF volunteers are tirelessly fighting their own station sale and are looking forward to a future when they can be back on the air again.

The irony there, as pointed out by Jim Radio of Austin Airwaves, is that one of the presenters in the March 19 SXSW panel “How to Save College Radio” is Susan Harmon, managing director of Public Radio Capital, joining Joey Yang, station manager of KTRU (Rice Radio), and Kenya Lewis, an organizer in the Save KUSF movement. Watch your back, guys.


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