My Guest Column for Maximum Rock N Roll. Originally appeared in issue 356.
January 18th is the second anniversary of the shutdown of KUSF 90.3fm in San Francisco. KUSF was a 34 year old college radio station that provided a wide variety of programming to San Francisco and the Bay Area. As of this writing the sale of the station has still not been approved by the FCC. It is a complicated and confusing affair.
The University of San Francisco holds the license for 90.3fm where KUSF was situated. On January 18, 2011 the administration announced the university was selling the license to Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN), a non-profit organization associated with the University of Southern California (USC). USF shutdown the station without warning on morning of the 18th, turning off the transmitter at 10am. The on-air DJ Schmeejay was met by campus security, administrators and station management who told him to step aside while the station was turned off.
It is at this point in the story that even the most seemingly interested person's eyes start to glaze over. It is confusing and there are a lot of acronyms involved. I haven't even got into USF's president insulting the San Francisco community, the FCC violations, the petitions to deny, the appeals or the "fine" USF and CPRN paid to the FCC for violations. There is so much detail and twists to this story. Even the most involved person occasionally has a hard time following it. I am sure that is why a final decision is not easily being made.
The ousted volunteers formed as Friends of KUSF to petition the FCC to deny the sale of the station. So far it has been very successful. In the beginning most people thought there wasn't a chance in hell that the Friends of KUSF would prevail. Yet, as the fight gets more involved and the truth begins to come out the odds seem to move more in favor of stopping the sale. It isn't easy and it won't be quick, but the former KUSF volunteers have vowed to take it all the way to the end. We have continued broadcasting as KUSF In Exile on the internet. The internet station was originally sponsored by WFMU in New Jersey. The volunteers started a non-profit organization called San Francisco Community Radio (SFCR) and started broadcasting independently in October.
Critics of the Friends of KUSF like to state that USF owned the license so they should be able to do whatever they want with it. If it was commercial station it would be hard to argue with the sale. A commercial station's objective is to make money which is why so many of them suck. However 90.3fm is a non-commercial educational station given to USF to use while teaching students. Of course, USF can get out of the broadcasting business if they want, but they should give the station back to the FCC for reassignment. Instead USF's administration looks to make a $3.75 million dollar profit off of a public resource.
Two other side effects of the sale also have to be noted. The first is the former KUSF record library. Maybe not the most complete radio station record collection ever, but still an irreplaceable document of San Francisco's musical history. It is has been curated and maintained by KUSF volunteers since 1977. I knew the collection inside and out. I personally delivered many records from local and national bands to be added to it. USF declared from the shutdown of the station that the record collection would stay with the university. Then in May SFCR received word that USF no longer had the space to store the collection. San Francisco Community Radio sent a proposal to USF to become the new home for the records. However USF chose to give the KUSF collection to another non-profit - archive.org. The records are currently sitting in a storage container in Richmond, CA. Another slap in the face to the former KUSF volunteers.
Then there is the Rock N Swap. This may be the most frustrating. The Rock N Swap is a record swap that is held a few times per year which was started by and run by the KUSF volunteers to raise money for the station. It was highly successful becoming the biggest record swap in Northern California. USF has continued to run it after shutting down the station. They send out misleading press releases implying that the swap helps the fight to stop the sale of 90.3fm. It doesn't. Why would USF support that fight? Remember they are the ones who want to sell the station. Unfortunately our local press doesn't question it and continues to print these incorrect announcements. Then people continue to sell at it and people continue to go to it, including a few MRR shitworkers. It shouldn't be necessary to point out, but I will. By participating in or attending this swap you are saying you support USF’s decision to shut down and their attempt to sell KUSF, you oppose the efforts to stop the sale of the KUSF license and you do not want KUSF to return to the San Francisco airwaves. As the saying goes money talks. If you stop giving yours to USF, they may learn what a big mistake they made.
Where does it go from here? The unexciting answer is we have to wait. When things are moving fast as they were in the beginning, it is easy for everyone to stay interested. When we have to wait for a decision from the FCC, people tend to forget that this fight is still going on. So I am here to remind you that it is. Friends of KUSF is asking the FFC to conduct a hearing to publicly decide if the selling of 90.3fm is a good deal for the San Francisco community. We need to continue to let all involved know that it isn't.
USF is currently running a cutesy advertising campaign around the city. One of their slogans is "There is no moral compass app." Every time I see it I can't help that think they ought to know. The hypocrisy of so-called Christians in this country is amazing. Someone needs to restudy what the religion's namesake would do. Do you think Jesus would turn against the poor, the underrepresented and the voiceless, not to mention the students you are supposed to be educating to turn a quick profit? I don't.
I was a KUSF volunteer for twenty years and am currently involved in the effort to stop the sale of the station to CPRN. The preceding opinion is mine. It is not an official statement from the Friends of KUSF. You can listen to KUSF In Exile/ SFCR at savekusf.org.