KUSF in Exile Now Streaming Thanks to WFMU

Denise Sullivan published on March 25, 2011


From the streets of Dogpatch to the beaches of the Sunset and the Richmond, over in West Portal where the L Taraval rolls, and way out in the Ingleside and Excelsior districts, the people of San Francisco have been missing their daily dose of KUSF. The City’s KUSF-dedicated citizens know that Rice-A-Roni is no San Francisco treat; they would sooner survive on a diet of Folk Law, Ragtime Machine and In The Soul Kitchen with Harry D. Now mercifully, for the KUSF-starved, good news came this week in the form of KUSF in Exile, now streaming thanks to the the folks at WFMU who donated some of their bandwidth to the imperiled station. In conjunction with the work of a coalition of Save KUSF DJs, community support, a California State Senator and an impressive list of musicians including members of Yo La Tengo, Neutral Milk Hotel and the Stooges, KUSF in Exile is now broadcasting online from a makeshift studio in the Bayview District. As the station’s volunteer staff awaits the FCC’s decision on the sale and the transfer of KUSF’s FM broadcast license to media conglomerate Entercom, the University of Southern California and its classical music-programmed, KDFC, the Save KUSF contingent contend that the sale doesn’t serve community interests. Not only do these entities not know the difference between Alice Coltrane and Alice Cooper (which isn’t exactly the point), but more precisely, they don’t speak the language of the diverse community and listenership KUSF represents. However, since our last report on the KUSF imbroglio, there have been some positive developments in the effort to increase awareness of the plight of the station which is by no means exclusive to KUSF and the SF Bay Area; station closures and defunding are the issue of the day in public broadcasting and college radio. Both WRVU at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and KTRU at Rice University in Houston are running similar campaigns to save their stations from sales. Ultimately, the DJs of KUSF would like the opportunity to match the funds and take possession of the station themselves so that they may continue to fulfill the station’s original broadcast mandate as a community service outlet. And it’s in this matter of turning a college station into listener-supported radio where WFMU fits in: formerly associated with Upsala College in East Orange, NJ and serving Western New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania and New York City, FMU as it’s known, has been listener-supported since the ’80s (and currently in the midst of their own annual fundraiser).

Last month the WFMU crew arranged a 25 college station in solidarity simulcast of the first KUSF in Exile event at Amoeba Records in San Francisco. KUSF DJS Schmeejay, Irwin, Carolyn and Harry D, among others, returned to the airwaves with their unique personalities and eclectic sides. Simulcast for three hours from coast to coast, it’s archived here, along with all the KUSF podcasts since. You can also watch it. And now daily there’s the equally delicious jams emanating from KUSF in Exile online, alongside an expanding list of fresh programming. The broadcasts also help continue to spread the word about the ongoing efforts to save the award-winning community resource.

In addition to Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum and Iggy and the Stooges saxman Steve MacKay, groups diverse as the classically inclined Kronos Quartet, Krautrock’s Faust and freak folks Vetiver, have all come out publicly in support of KUSF retaining its established frequency and studio space. The coalition to Save KUSF received another boost last month when California State Senator Leland Yee (D–SF) threw his support their way in a letter to University of San Francisco President, the Reverend Stephen Privett, urging the University to do the right thing in the final days preceding the station’s review by the FCC. Last week the federal agency blocked a request toward the repositioning of the station’s transmitter from USF to Marin. Though it’s a separate issue from the sale and transfer, the Save KUSF group perceive it as a win, as it keeps the mothership intact.

So for now, and until a final verdict is reached, the heartbeat of SF has returned to its cafes, hair salons, cubicles and Victorian flats, from Cow Hollow to Mission Rock. There’s hardly another spot on the dial where you’ll find such a broad spectrum of programming, from legal advice, a Scott Joplin rag and a Willie Mitchell production all in one day—except maybe WFMU to whom KUSF fans say, thank you. To download the KUSF stream and for more information, visit KUSF in Exile, and tune in as college radio bands together to turn this thing around.

Battle Rages Over a College Radio Station’s Sale

March 19, 2011

In mid-January, the University of San Francisco abruptly took KUSF off the air.

In announcing the sale of the station — which for 34 years beamed cutting-edge rock, public affairs and other programming to a diverse audience — the university said KUSF would not be ending, but merely changing to an online-only format with an enhanced student presence.

Since then, the station’s community volunteers, a group called Save KUSF, have been furiously working to halt the sale, with the hope of eventually buying the signal.

In the meantime, the university’s online radio efforts have stalled.

Miranda Morris, fund-raising and marketing coordinator of KUSF, estimated that the station used to reach around 30,000 weekly listeners at 90.3 FM, while around 20 people at a time currently listen online.

It seems that even in the digital age, a radio signal still matters.

Ken Freedman, station manager at the free-form radio station WFMU in New Jersey, said, “It’s not realistic for a terrestrial station to move online and maintain the same audience.”

Mr. Freedman, whose station has been helping Save KUSF’s efforts, said a radio station needed both online and traditional broadcast components. Thanks to WFMU’s donated broadband, Save KUSF will begin streaming live online as KUSF-in-Exile this weekend from a studio in the Bayview district.

Irwin Swirnoff, a former KUSF music director and a leader of Save KUSF, said, “It’s a temporary situation that will hopefully lead to us regaining a spot on the terrestrial dial.”

With a dedicated core group of around 30 volunteers, Save KUSF has mounted a spirited campaign against the station’s $3.75 million sale to the Classical Public Radio Network, a nonprofit largely owned by the University of Southern California.

In addition to raising about $25,000 for legal fees to petition the Federal Communications Commission block the transaction, Save KUSF pushed the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Democratic Party, State Senator Leland Yee and other political leaders to condemn the university’s divestment publicly.

Local venues and musicians have been staging benefit shows, and music groups like Yo La Tengo have written statements in support.

In early March, Save KUSF’s lawyers petitioned the F.C.C. to block the sale. The university said the largely volunteer-run station was losing money and not serving students.

“Not a single critic has explained why it is fair that our students foot the bill for a radio station run primarily by outsiders for the benefit of others,” said Gary McDonald, a university spokesman.

Mr. Freedman said that moving online “makes no sense” economically. Steve Runyon, KUSF founder and current general manager, agreed, calling the sale “a loss to the university.”

But Save KUSF hopes that the college’s loss can be its gain.

“No one is questioning U.S.F.’s right to liquidate an asset,” Mr. Swirnoff said. “All we want is to have the opportunity to buy that transmitter.”

03.25.11 Freefall DJ David Bassin

David Bassin hosts an eclectic two-hour mix of future jazz, R &B, global grooves & abstract beats tat has received international acclaim since it's debut in 2000. Weekly rebroadcasts are available on Live365.com , Giant Step.net (NYC), Net-Musique.com (San Francisco). RadioTake10.org (China), DanceAnd Soul.com (Singapore). RadioPellenera.com (Italy) and the weekly podcast, available for free from the iTunes music store. More information, links to our partner sites and contact info is available at: www.freefallradio.com

Producer and Host, David Bassin

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