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Even as supporters of the University of San Francisco’s radio station race to file a petition with federal regulators to block the sale of its frequency, the school and a nonprofit group called Classical Public Radio Network are moving quickly to relocate the station’s transmitter off campus.
Dismissing critics of the recent dismantling of the student- and community-run radio station, USF and the radio network filed their own petition this week to move the transmitter to Sausalito, requesting speedy approval.
Those opposed to the sale include community activists, the university’s Faculty Association and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, especially District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. Both groups have passed resolutions opposing the sale.
Under the $3.75 million deal, the new station would change formats from KUSF’s unrepentant eclectic assemblage of world music and public affairs to classical music.
The university’s request to the Federal Communications Commission asks permission to move its radio transmitter because “the license will be transferred to an entity not controlled by the university.”
The application acknowledges the controversy around the sale, and proposes physically separating the broadcast equipment from the campus as soon as possible: “Due to the sensitive nature of the license transfer, the proposed assignee wishes to maintain better control of access to the transmitter and antenna which now must be handled through USF security personnel.”
Gary McDonald, a spokesman for the university, said the school made the right decision, and rejects the various resolutions against the sale.
McDonald said the supervisors’ vote “is a nonbinding resolution, which means it has no bearing whatsoever.”
“We legally can’t reverse the deal,” he said. “If we were to walk away from this, we could be sued for millions.”
Organizers with a group calling itself Save KUSF met with Ken Freedman of Jersey City’s WFMU on Tuesday night to discuss how to handle FCC paperwork opposing the pending sale. They have fewer than 10 days left to file their petition to deny the transfer of the license for 90.3 FM to the University of Southern California-owned Classical Public Radio Network.
Freedman was part of WFMU at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., when the school went bankrupt in 1995. Along with other staff and volunteers who had been running the station, Freedman created a nonprofit that bid on the frequency in competition with 15 other organizations.
“It’s a process that can get really long and drawn out,” Freedman warned KUSF supporters, among them former volunteers. He said that in addition to the petition to deny the transfer of license, they can also petition to deny the transmitter relocation. Their opponents, however, can also appeal any denials.
After five years of bidders filing back and forth against each other before the FCC, Freedman and his group ultimately emerged with their frequency, 91.1 FM.
The University of San Francisco’s application also includes a “consolidated engineering statement” acknowledging that the transmitter move could create interference problems with two other college radio stations, Berkeley’s KALX 90.7 FM and KZSU, Stanford’s 90.1 FM.
“In some parts of the Bay, KALX is going to get more interference from KUSF,” said Todd Urick, program and technical director of Common Frequency, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting college and community radio stations. “The interference that’s meaningful in this is maybe KALX listeners in Marin County.”
But Urick said he was also concerned about the Stanford station, even though the application said it is unlikely to affect many households, because “any overlap between the protected and interfering contours of KUSF and KZSU is over the San Francisco Bay.”
“It’s important to understand what the term ‘interference’ means in relation to FCC rules, or in relation to what a listener experience is,” Urick said. He explained that college stations have many “fringe” listeners, which means that they listen to the station outside of the protected signal area, defined by what engineers call “signal contours.”
“According to FCC rules, they wouldn’t be interfering with KZSU’s protected contour, but they would be infringing on the fringe listeners who might be listening to KZSU outside of the protected contours,” Urick said.
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