The station has been in operation since 1963, but USF announced on Jan. 18 that it had sold its bandwidth, 90.3 FM, for $3.75 million to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
USF sold their FCC license to USC’s Classical Public Radio Network, which is planning to use the bandwidth to launch a nonprofit classical radio program in the Bay Area.
The sale has to go through 30 days of public comment before it can be approved and finalized by the FCC.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, a USF alum, addressed the crowd today before going inside City Hall, where the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on a resolution he introduced last week. The resolution would urge the university to rethink the sale.
Mirkarimi said this wasn’t just about KUSF but was an attack on public access media, and he rebuked the university’s administration for the way they handled the sale.
“It’s being done in very surreptitious ways,” he said, adding that the school’s failure to act openly showed a lack of respect for the community.
Mirkarimi urged the crowd to show their support and to raise their voices in protest.
“If we go down, we’re going down as warriors on behalf of public access,” he said.
The crowd responded with chants and cheers as DJs past and present addressed the crowd and musician Ty Segall performed.
Popular KUSF personality DJ Schmeejay, who was mid-show as the transaction took place, said there had been rumors of a sale for years, but that he never believed it would actually happen.
DJ Schmeejay said he resented the “backhanded” way the deal went down and the way that he and the other staff, volunteers and supporters learned about it.
“We would have loved to have raised the money to buy the station,” he said.
The KUSF sale was part of an effort to reinvest assets into USF, university spokesman Gary McDonald said. The university plans to continue broadcasting online.
“We didn’t sell music inventory. We didn’t sell the logo,” he said. “Our audience can still listen to us at kusf.org.”
But that explanation did little to appease the staff, volunteers, alumni, students, and devoted audience of listeners.
“It’s a bait and switch,” said Jon Golinger, former KUSF DJ and local activist.
Golinger said he listened to USF President Stephen Privett talk about the new online format and said the president “fairly clearly never listened to an Internet radio site.”
KUSF radio supporters argue that the online broadcasting won’t reach the same audience.
“There is such a thing as a digital divide. There are people that are too poor and can’t afford the technology or a digital hookup,” said Josh Wilson, a board member on Independent Arts and Media, a local nonprofit that supports 22 arts projects.
DJ Schmeejay is hopeful that this is a chance for the community to come together and take a stance for public access media.
“I really think this is a watermark opportunity,” he said.