As of 10 this morning, KUSF 90.3 FM was unexpectedly taken off the air. Broadcasting new music, cultural programs and news out of the University of San Francisco (USF) since 1977, KUSF has been a free-form beacon for a community that desperately wants an alternative to mainstream media saturation.
Without any notice to the dozens of volunteers (many of whom have been on air for decades), underwriters and supporters, [Web Link USF announced this morning] that KUSF is moving to an online only format, effective immediately. The university agreed to assign the FCC license for radio frequency 90.3 FM to Classical Public Radio Network, which is launching a non-commercial classical music station in the Bay Area. CPRN is owned by University of Southern California.
I've been DJing at KUSF under the handle Terry Dactyl for four years and couldn't be more dismayed. While I'm definitely not one of the Dinosaur DJs (which I consider to be those who have been on air since before I was born), I consider my work at KUSF to be an integral part of who I am and am crushed as another traditional medium's plug is pulled.
I'm sure readers can identify with this sinking feeling as the surprise, shock and sadness of losing a great terrestrial station are similar to losing the Danville Weekly. Both KUSF and the Weekly were community pillars which provided a little something for everyone involved -- whether that be hometown news and views or vinyl re-issues. Regardless, the loss of a great community radio station is indicative of what a fragile state traditional media is in.
Growing up in the internet age, I've always had a fascination with media "past" -- specifically newspapers, magazines and radio -- and have been incredibly fortunate to work in two fields that are slowly dying. Maybe I was naive in thinking that listener-supported radio could go on forever and not succumb to the allure of the web, but I'm not the only one.
Facebook has erupted with anger and amazement over the loss of KUSF from both DJs and listeners. People are upset and understand the need for free-form terrestrial radio as a primary means of alternative information, but what can we do?
KUSF will hold a meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on the USF campus to discuss the next step, but I imagine it's already out of their hands. As expected, it comes down to money and the fact that the university doesn't make much from KUSF and is [Web Link reported to make $3.75 million] from the sale. There's also the matter of a valuable classical library hidden somewhere in the KUSF studios, but that's esoteric nonsense/DJ lore you're probably not interested in.
I don't have the answers and, really, I'm just upset. But I want to know how one can sustain an important media outlet in a crumby economy when it's already completely staffed by volunteers. How do we keep small businesses, alternative information sources and tangible media out there when the internet beckons? While the web is a wonderful tool, without which I would be jobless, I stand firmly in the line of Luddites who know that this change is a serious disservice to the Bay Area.