Another college radio station on the chopping block

Students are taking to the streets to protest the University of San Francisco’s decision to sell the broadcast license for its student radio station. Supporters gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall this week, urging city leaders to adopt a resolution opposing the sale.

USF officials announced Jan. 18 that the indie station, KUSF, would cease over-the-air broadcasting and move to an online-only format. The license for its 90.3 FM frequency is being sold for $3.75 million to the University of Southern California, which intends to use it for a classical music format.

In a letter to the community, USF President Stephen Privett wrote that KUSF had a small audience and only about 10 percent of its volunteers were students:

In an era of difficult economic choices, we simply could not afford to continue subsidizing, with tuition dollars, a radio station whose primary focus was not our own students. What began as a student enterprise evolved over the years into a near-entitlement for the community.

The sale of the station was kept secret from all but a few staffers — at the request of the buyer, according to USF. That secrecy has sparked outrage among station volunteers.

“We never had the opportunity to do outreach,” former DJ and music director Irwin Swirnoff told the Bay Citizen. “For a school that prides itself on Jesuit values, it is acting in the interests of greed and dishonesty.”

The move is the latest in a series of college radio sales across the country. As James Heggen explains in the latest issue of the SPLC Report, universities are increasingly looking to sell licenses for financial reasons and moving to online-only formats. Students at Rice University’s KTRU are among those pushing back, asking the Federal Communications Commission to deny the sale.