The fight for KUSF

This is not about a format change. It's about a community being robbed of its voice.

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By Irwin Swirnoff

OPINION For almost 34 years, KUSF (90.3 FM), has provided unique and varied local programming that truly is the audio representation of the qualities that make San Francisco such a special place. A place where diversity is honored and given a voice. A place where art, culture, and music are given a platform to tell stories, evoke emotions, and unite a wide range of people.

With shows in more than a dozen languages and every imaginable musical genre, era, and region represented on its airwaves, KUSF stood as one of the most respected college and noncommercial radio stations in the country.

Beyond its wide scope of music programming, KUSF provided crucial cultural and public service programming that served so many communities and cultures in our city that are all too often marginalized. Chinese Star Radio was the only radio program in Cantonese for the large and vibrant Chinese community in San Francisco. Disability and Senior News Report provided in-depth reporting on pressing issues facing these often overlooked and neglected parts of our community.

On Jan. 18, at 10 a.m., all those voices, all those communities, and all those services were silenced and squashed. In a secret deal behind the back of the community, the University of San Francisco sold KUSF's transmitter to the University of Southern California in a deal that also involves the large media conglomerate Entercom.

It went down like a hostile corporate takeover. The DJ on air wasn't allowed to sign off. Armed security entered the station as every lock in the studio was being changed. As stewards of a scarce public resource, USF has an obligation to the community. It's time for the university to take a step back from this deal and allow for a mutually beneficial solution that will keep community radio alive in San Francisco.

It's become clear that USF had no idea what an irreplaceable public resource it was killing when it entered this sneaky deal that would afford USC with its sixth territorial radio station as it aims to create a monopoly on the left side of the dial and extend its fundraising capacities deep into the Bay Area.

It's obvious that this is a bad deal for the city of San Francisco. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and the USF Faculty Association have passed resolutions condemning the deal. Outspoken support has come from a wide range of city and state leaders, including state Sen. Leland Yee.

No one is arguing USF's right to liquidate an asset. All we are asking is that the community be involved in this decision and be given the first opportunity to purchase the transmitter.

This is not a done deal. Our petition to deny the transfer has been filed at the Federal Communications Commission. Serious questions about the legality of this deal are being addressed, and the next several weeks and months will allow us time for negotiations to help save community radio in San Francisco.

This is not about a format change. It's about a community being robbed of its voice. We are committed to this fight and need everyone in San Francisco to join us in saving this crucial community asset. Now is the time to speak truth to power.

Guardian contributor Irwin Swirnoff has been the musical director at KUSF. 

Comments

Thanks, Irwin, for your excellent letter. I agree that the community be given the opportunity to purchase the transmitter. KUSF provides unique programming that fulfills a need in San Francisco, and should be available for all-- including those who still rely on a boombox for their broadcasts!

Posted by Jessica on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

Wow. Thank you, Irwin. When I first heard the news I was forlorn and resigned. But like you point out, there is hope. KUSF has been my favorite radio station for twenty one years. I don't always listen to it, but when I'm searching for something I always ended up there. KUSF introduced me to some crazy fantastic stuff from Turkish music to San Francisco nouveau pop from the late 70's. 99% of the radio stations out there, including Internet radio, cannot match the diversity. Without it my opportunities to hear new music and older music new to me, is severely diminished.

As someone who's daughter is now in the San Francisco Public School System, I am becoming more involved with my community. This has lead to greater meaning in my life as I work for a greater and as it turns out, common good. Like an economy that grows as more and more transactions take place, neighborhoods become stronger as more and more connections are made. Loosing KUSF has hurt our community. It is a severe loss and one I am willing to fight. Can you please tell us how to get involved?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

donate to savekusf.org

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

With all the money spent on legal battles, you could set up a new facility and fully own it. That would be a better solution than litigation. There's a chance that the legal maneuvering will fail and you will be left with nothing. Why not take an approach that has a higher probability of success?

Also, that "truth to power" cliche kind of ruined the message.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

Jealous of Irwin much?

Posted by TooManyHipsters on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

With all the money spent on legal battles, you could set up a new facility and fully own it. That would be a better solution than litigation. There's a chance that the legal maneuvering will fail and you will be left with nothing. Why not take an approach that has a higher probability of success?

Also, that "truth to power" cliche kind of ruined the message.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

My life as a San Franciscan has been less rich because of the interruption in KUSF's broadcasting.

The airwaves belong to the public, particularly those frequencies that are left of the dial.

USF paid nothing for their license to use our public resource, yet managed to flip it for a $3.8 windfall by selling it to USC, which is essentially broadcasting Entercom's KDFC unchanged.

I'm heartened by the good fight the KUSF community has shown, especially Irwin Swirnoff whose great radio show "Sleeves on Hearts" is greatly missed. He really boiled down this issue -- it's not about classical music or radio format. It's about our community being robbed of its voice.

Shame on Father Privett. Shame on USC's Brenda Barnes. Shame on Entercom.

Keep up the fight, San Francisco.

Posted by TooManyHipsters on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

Irwin,

Your article in the Guardian tells it all, is so well written and expresses so well the need for Kusf to be restored and back in operation. Your leadership, effort and committment is outstanding!

Posted by Guest Harry Swirnoff on Apr. 08, 2011 @ 10:51 am