KUSF is sold out from under its volunteers, and local communities are left reeling
One avenue for those protesting the sale of KUSF is to take their case to the FCC, while another is to increase scrutiny of USC's role. Nikk Fell, a DJ on KUSF's "Liquid Konspiracy," sees hope in the fact that the FCC has not yet approved KUSF's sale. "The FCC has not received the contract yet," he says. "We think we have a chance to change the decision, and that's one of our plans right now."
"I was on a street law program the other day and there was talk about pursuing an injunction," says attorney and former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. "Jello Biafra also had an interesting idea — he thought the pressure should be put on USC."
USC's involvement in the purchase of KUSF is one of a number of recent acquisition moves by USC within the radio marketplace. It left KUSF a casualty of a growing related trend, in which commercial classical musical stations are being shifted to nonprofit public radio status — thanks in part to USC, a college station that broadcast many languages and musical genres (including classical) and foregrounded local music was booted off the dial and replaced by KDFC's uniformly classical programming. "Every major city has at least one college station," observes Krystal Chambers, who co-DJed "Liquid Konspiracy" with Fell. "Cleveland has four college stations and L.A. has three. For San Francisco to have no station is a travesty. We felt the voice of San Francisco was sold to a Southern California conglomerate. They have four other stations — why do they need us?"
The sudden erasure of KUSF — which had strong ties to the local music scene and related venues and businesses, as well as sponsored events such as Rock 'n' Swap — has cultural repercussions on a local and broader scale. "It's going to have a huge impact," Carolyn Keddy, who DJed at KUSF and volunteered for the station for 20 years, says. "So many voices were silenced. It isn't just about the change of format and the loss of programming." According to Keddy, who managed KUSF's website until she was suddenly denied access to it on the morning of Jan. 18, the university's abrupt sale and closure of the on-campus station was akin to saying, "Thanks for making us look good and doing all that work for us. Now get the hell out of here."
LEFT OF THE DIAL
Of course, KUSF's former staff and volunteers are not going away quietly. Initially, Privett had not planned on attending the Jan. 19 meeting regarding KUSF's sale, but the immediate media response and subsequent public outcry changed at least that decision on his part. The sale of KUSF cuts to the heart of disputes about outside corporate influences on the local media landscape, and more directly about San Francisco itself: what the city represents, and its changing — more generic and corporate? — public identity. Three of its call letters may have been shared with the university, but KUSF didn't have that name for nothing. It was a musical nexus for the city, and in the musician community, a bridge to and from San Francisco and the rest of the world.
"Takeovers like this seem all too common in our greedy little country, but I can't accept the fact that they're trying to do this in San Francisco," says Howard Ryan, a.k.a. DJ Schmeejay, who was kicked off the air without an opportunity to sign off when the station was locked down by campus police on Jan. 18. "This city sets the example. This city doesn't take shit lying down. I'm trusting that the citizens, the Board of Supervisors, and support from the international community will stop the sale from going through and we can return [the station] to the airwaves where it belongs."