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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Having It Both Ways

Todd Urick, writing on the site Common Frequency (link on right), shared some words of wisdom in the item “Push to Grow the Audience.” It details his take on what we’ve called the manifest-destiny model in public radio nowadays:

Station Resource Group in coordination with CPB recently released its final report in their “Grow the Audience” series. Just the title of it explains the most important priority in public media now: growth. One has to question whether public media is venturing too far into commodification (too late), pressuring stations to perform better at whatever the cost. It is obvious in commercial radio that appealing to the lowest common denominator brings the most ratings. For years NPR has been the alternative to this formulation, offering programming that may be considered a little more thought provoking. It is almost intuitively seen that some listen to NPR merely because it is the only alternative to commercial radio. But what happens when NPR tries to step over that line to take a dip of the commercial audience that simply don’t consider themselves public radio listeners. Let’s face it, many people in American culture have differing tastes when it comes to news, e.g., what is Paris Hilton up to, or image of Jesus shows up on a pancake. Can NPR appeal to these people without losing its “intelligent” audience? Does NPR assume these listeners won’t drop NPR simply because there is no other alternative on the radio (except for LPFM — and maybe that is why NPR sides against LPFM?). The report proposes the desire to double the number of people using public media each week in the next decade; that’s quite a goal.

The worrisome detail in public radio’s history is it has gutted what was once community and college radio — stations with different personalities every place you venture in the US. NPR affiliates were once these type of stations until station managements cleaned house. NPR affiliates are like McDonalds franchises nowadays: no matter where you go, you can expect the same. Although, some NPR affiliates have a community-tinged local approach. This is slowly disappearing under the pressure of the likes of “grow the audience.” Its unfortunate that the final report does not mention “localism” since the FCC has talked so much about this in the last few years. And for music recommendations: expansion of classical, jazz, and AAA.  Although classical and jazz are respectable staples, what about independent artists and new genres of music, or anything appealing to young adults?

The further commodification of public radio is an even louder cry to license more community and LPFM stations.

This just begged for comments from interested parties:

Public radio plays lip service to “localism” — witness the takeover of free-form Rice radio in Houston by the U of H (which already owns a public station) to air canned classical music. Nationwide, public radio bean counters are reading the tea leaves of Arbitron and going Triple A tripe, following the lead of commercial stations. But then, of course, when its funds are threatened, you’ll see this kind of quote from American Public Media’s 170MillionAmericans.org: “Federal funding provides the margin of revenue needed by local stations to produce quality local programs and to make a market for national producers.” Followed by the pious bleatings about the mission “to ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens, and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and minorities.”

The final installment of open records released to Jim Radio of Austin Airwaves describing the Rice public-relations debacle speak to the enthusiasm of those involved in station expansion. Not much is revealed in the attached PDFs released after a (worthless?) review by the attorney general’s office, aside from putting a date on the current finagling as about this time last year — unless you’d find it interesting that it also marked the date when the station was put back on the market. More germane to this piece is the sheer neat-o exuberance exhibited by the director of acquisitions for Public Radio Capital in speeding the deal along and the by-gosh 007 subterfuge in keeping this state secret from the general public.

12-21-10 Docs from AG’s office to be produced to Ellinger (with redactions) part 3

12-21-10 Docs from AG’s office to be produced to Ellinger (with redactions) part 4

The War Drags On

More news of local stations absorbed into the borg. This post, entitled “WXEL’s soul at stake, opponents say, as state board considers sale of public radio station,” on the website for the Palm Beach Post News, details the impending sale of the local classical radio station from Barry University to Classical South Florida, owned by the Minnesota-based public radio conglomerate American Public Media. The opposition voices some oft-heard complaints:

Palm Beach County residents who oppose the sale fear that the new owner will strip Boynton Beach-based WXEL of its local character, turning it into a generic classical music station.

The dissenters, who consider Barry an outsider, also complain that the university has gone about the sale without consulting them.

And this from Baton Rouge, on the website 2thadvocate:

Beginning Jan 3, WRKF-FM (89.3), Baton Rouge’s National Public Radio affiliate, no longer will play classical music, switching to news and talk programs 24 hours a day.

The change represents the first time in the 30-year history of the station that classical music will not be played at any hour, Gordon said.

Surveys over recent years show that listeners tune in primarily for NPR news, he said.

And this about the current strategy of selling HD radio, which entails moving local music to IBOC (note the reference to “High Definition”):

Classical music will be played 24 hours a day at WRKF HD 2, the station’s HD or High Definition channel. Gordon said listeners will need HD radio receivers to tune in to the classical music programming….

According to the release, the station will add “The Diane Rehm Show” and the BBC World Service to the weekday schedule. They will fill the slots where classical music now is being played.

The article continues to list the additional canned news shows that will be added to the schedule of the analogue station.

Local Heroes

Jennifer Waits, writing on the Radio Survivor blog, reports on one local public radio group that manage to escape assimilation into the borg:

When universities put their radio stations up for sale, more often than not the people lining up with cash in hand are non-local radio groups. So, it’s a wonderful surprise when those who work at a  station that’s on the chopping block take the initiative to save the station from outside parties. As we reported last year, public radio station WLIU found itself for sale after the State University of New York at Stony Brook took over the Long Island University campus in Southampton, New York.

Campus radio dated back to as early as the 1970s at the formerly named Southampton College, with stations broadcasting over carrier current (WSCR, which eventually morphed into an Internet-only student station and is presumably now defunct) and FM (WPBX, which was renamed WLIU). Most recently WLIU has been broadcasting a public radio format. When the station was put up for sale, a group of community members and station staffers formed Peconic Public Broadcasting in order to make a bid for the station. For the past year they have been fundraising and working hard to make their purchase of the station a reality.

Peconic Public Broadcasting successfully completed its acquisition of WLIU on Wednesday, December 15 and the station announced that it will now be broadcasting under the new call letters WPPB at 88.3 FM. According to a press release, the new station will continue to air public radio programming, but with “added local emphasis.”

As Jennifer notes, and we concur: “It’s great to see that community members in Southampton were able to keep their station both independent and locally owned and it’s nice to finally hear some good news about a college radio station sale.”

National Public Radio?

Kathy Leonard-Bushman, via Jim Radio, sent along a disturbing post about the kind of misinformation that can be spread by an outlet such as NPR, this time regarding the outsourcing of jobs from the United States. It also bears directly on the influence of corporate support on a “public” news organization. Kathy said, “One of my favorite independent news sources today shed a bit of light on what NPR is up to today”:

Steve Inskeep had a Reagan Administration propagandist, Matthew Slaughter, on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning spewing the propaganda that free trade is good and brings us jobs, which is a despicable lie going entirely against the public interest. Inskeep began the piece by saying millions of Americans think outsourcing loses jobs, as though he thinks they are nuts.

“Is America benefiting from globalization?” Inskeep set up, and Slaughter replied “Definitely.”

Paul Craig Roberts has a wonderful piece this morning in which he blows Slaughter completely to bits with hard facts showing clearly that globalization has lost us jobs permanently, and we will probably not recover to anything approaching the average wages Americans have made in the past.

You can’t really expect NPR to correct the lies it spews — it would lose its corporate funding. Meanwhile, the taxpayers send NPR money so that they can spew more propaganda like this at us, throughout the day, with guests from the American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institution, Cato Institute and other think tanks financed by transnational corporations to sell out the public interest.

The aforementioned Roberts is former associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal and President Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, and his article (link above) totally discredits the bogus claim that is being foisted off by industry and, now, “public” radio. Among the incredible points he makes:

To keep eyes off of the loss of jobs to offshoring, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by Republicans on low income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford.

In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means. With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing can be done to save the economy.

No government will admit its mistakes, especially when it can blame foreigners. China is being made the scapegoat for American failure. An entire industry has grown up that points its finger at China and away from 20 years of corporate offshoring of US jobs and 9 years of expensive and pointless US wars….

The major cause of the US trade deficit with China is “globalism” or the practice, enforced by Wall Street and Wal-Mart, of US corporations offshoring their production for US markets to China in order to improve the bottom line by lowering labor costs. Most of the tariffs that the congressional idiots want to put on “Chinese” imports would, therefore, fall on the offshored production of US corporations. When these American brand goods, such as Apple computers, are brought to US markets, they enter the US as imports. Thus, the tariffs will be applied to US corporate offshored output as well as to the exports of Chinese companies to the US.

The correct conclusion is that the US trade deficit with China is the result of “globalism” or jobs offshoring, not Chinese currency manipulation.

An important point always overlooked is that the US is dependent on China for many manufactured products, including high technology products that are no longer produced in the US. Revaluation of the Chinese currency would raise the dollar price of these products in the US. The greater the revaluation, the greater the price rise. The impact on already declining US living standards would be dramatic.

When US policymakers argue that the solution to America’s problems is a stronger Chinese currency, they are yet again putting the burden of adjustment on the out-of-work, indebted, and foreclosed American population.

To join the Liberty Underground news service, email libertyuv@hotmail.com with “join” for a subject.

Viva College Radio

Joe Cavanagh, a deejay with UConn’s WHUS with an interest in Celtic music, sent Jeff Boudreau the following email in support of independent college radio:

A funny thing happened on my way home this evening. I tuned to perhaps the most widely heard public radio presence in lower New England, WFCR. There I heard a promo for the locally-produced Classical Music offerings of the station. My immediate thought was: Isn’t the WFCR broadcasting formula (daytime classical, evenings jazz, overnight classical, and the standard ‘national’ newsy offerings somewhere in between) followed, by and large, in almost every ‘public’ radio station? Then I thought: Why do they even bother with local programming? They might as well match the universal newsy hours (Morning Edition and ATC) with an airing of centrally produced Classical Music and  Jazz Music offerings.

In my view many stations transformed from the college kind to the public kind are beginning to look, in terms of programming behaviour, like commercial stations. I’m serious on this. Just two days ago I had a conversation decrying the obvious pressures public TV stations are under to expand the sponsor creep from mere logos to full-blown commercials! It doesn’t stop there. Sponsorship of public broadcasting seems to be in decline and the inevitable response of the stations has to be more, and more frequent, fund raising interruptions. Like many radio listeners I choose to listen to internet streams rather than over-the-air broadcasts. It is the content that is valued, not the delivery means! Unique content is the reason why many outside of the college environment choose their nearby student-run station over many if not most commercial stations.

I believe it is very short-sighted to drop college stations into the maw of  ‘public’ radio. Most successful college stations offer something of unique value and interest to their listeners. That local or regional identity will disappear as the station becomes just another host for the uniformity of NPR/CPB-sourced programming. Witness WFCR, which used to have a very diverse schedule, and the many other former college stations which have similarly restricted their programme content. If the NPR/CPB footprprint descends everywhere won’t it be both more convenient and more economical, eventually, for HQ to simply stream one signal to the internet and shut down operations everywhere else?

Don’t give up the struggle for local radio..

joe

A good read on the subject is this 2005 post on Slate.com, detailing the importance of this form of individual expression — the non-commercial station. In it, author Douglas Wolk notes:

But the great thing about college radio is that it doesn’t need to care about being “important” or popular — which is why its fans are still drawn to it. Kingmaking power or no, it’s pretty much the only kind of terrestrial radio that still operates according to its music directors and even its DJs’ personal aesthetics. College radio is local and individual, and the digital audio revolution has barely slowed it down. You can download songs from a dorm-mate or someone halfway across the world (or, all right, an actual online music store), but that only works if you already know what you want to hear. The point of college radio is that you get to hear things you didn’t already know about. And that means it’s one of the last few parts of American media that still has the power to surprise.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

• In Houston, reports Tom Taylor’s blog on radio-info.com and Jim Radio, public station KUHF is buying up a second station, the heretofore community-run station of Rice University students:
Sure enough, there’s a $9.5 million station sale in Houston. With KUHF owner University of Houston doubling up and acquiring Rice University’s KTRU (91.7). Monday’s TRI “Wheeling and Dealing” section told you the U.H. board of regents had approved spending up to $10 million to acquire a second FM. Final price almost reached that — $9.5 million. Now KUHF can follow the example of so many other public radio stations and specialize. KUHF (88.7) will be dedicated to news/talk/information. KTRU will be re-branded as KUHC (for “classical”) and be a full time classical and fine arts station. They’ll run both stations out of the same facility on the campus, says the Houston Chronicle. Class C2 KTRU is programmed by Rice students and features (among a lot of other things) local Houston bands. Rice tells the Chronicle it will use the proceeds for various improvements on the campus, with input from students. Some of those students aren’t happy about the loss of KTRU — but they’re outvoted by the administration. Speaking of voting, the vote by the regents of the University of Houston was 5 to 3 — far from unanimous. One regent gripes that the school has “very little oversight” over the station and that it “has not had as its top priority the promotion of the university, students or faculty.”

The students, however, are not happy at all, and have formed a website (saveKTRU.org — link on right), a Twitter page, and Facebook and google groups. They’re particularly incensed that this was done in secret, just before the students returned for the fall semester. An earlier attempt to sell the station met with outraged protest, as chronicled here. From the website:

KTRU is actively opposed to Rice University’s attempt to sell its broadcasting license and transmitter to the University of Houston. The organization, which operates through the will of the student body, does not endorse any plan that changes KTRU’s operating abilities.

Rice University has made an attempt to sell KTRU’s broadcasting license and transmitter in secrecy without consent or consultation with KTRU or the Rice student body. This puts the city of Houston and Rice University in danger of losing a vital media outlet.

KTRU refuses to recognize the validity of any agreement as a result of our exclusion from the negotiating table.

KTRU is a one-of-a-kind institution, a powerful, 50,000-watt college radio station that is run and operated by the student body. Only a handful of other college stations in the country have such an asset.

KTRU is known throughout the Houston market for a variety of award-winning shows, including but not limited to it’s weekly Hip-Hop show, the Vinyl Frontier, MK Ultra, wednesday night Blues, Sunday afternoon Jazz, and a local Houston/Texas music show, as well as international music from almost every country on Earth. No other station in the area provides such an array of music.

KTRU is the only 24-hour-a-day student media at Rice University. It is, after Rice Athletics, probably the most visible symbol of Rice within the Houston community. KTRU is the only radio station who broadcasts Rice’s nationally renown baseball team, as well as the home for women’s basketball games.

• WEKU in Kentucky is dropping classical music during the day in favor of all-talk, according to this post on the website of the Lexington Herald Leader. The story says “Its management hopes to find a home on FM radio for a second listening stream that would be the only station in the Bluegrass to play primarily classical music.” So, for now, suck it up, longhairs. Maybe they’ll crank up an HD channel for you…

• At the website pjstar.com, word is that Peoria’s four local radio stations will be bought up by Advanced Media Partners, pending FCC approval, a company headed by Mike Rea, part of the AAA Radio group that sold the stations to Independence Media four years ago. The writer here, Steve Tarter, lays out a wish list of formats he’d like to see when the deal goes down. Best of luck, Peoria. Keep your powder dry.

• In Wyoming, a station that formerly ran jazz has now moved it to an HD channel, according to this post. The analog channel is now stuffed with offerings from upstream, including the BBC and NPR. The article said, optimistic that listeners could tolerate the signal mashed into an HD3 channel:

The good news is that public radio has launched a 24-hour jazz station in the Fremont and Hot Springs counties area effective Aug. 1 and is available on HD3 only if you have a HD Radio. This way public radio can offer these services without having to find another analog frequency on the FM dial.

Public radio has also launched a 24-hour classical channel in the Fremont and Hot Springs counties area and this one is available on HD2 using a HD Radio which can be purchased for a price of $50 to $200 depending on what your budget can handle. The classical channel will be available for receiving with an analog radio sometime in the next couple of months in the Riverton area and might be receivable in Lander.

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