January 26, 2011

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So now KDFC is on 90.3 and 88.9, while KUSF is off the air. (Though it does have a Live365 stream.) Radio Valencia, a pirate radiating out of the Mission district on 87.9, has expressed sympathy with KUSF’s exiled volunteers, and has provided some airtime as well. The University of San Francisco, which sold the 90.3 license to the University of Southern California, currently has KUSF.org re-directing to this 9-day-old press release.

In my last post I suggested that KUSF’s volunteers apply for 87.7 as a licensed low power TV station. (As fate has it, the audio for Channel 6 TV is roughly on 87.7). I had forgotten about Radio Valencia when I wrote that. Perhaps the two groups can get together and go after 87.7, if that window is actually open.

The KUSF community (at SaveKUSF.org) remains committed to getting their frequency back. The likelihood of this rounds to zero, but I wish them luck. (They’re having some with SF supervisors.) I still think the future of radio is over the Net in any case. Going forward in that direction, a big question for KUSF’s community is how it can keep dealing with USF, which will provide the streaming, the studio, the record library and other essentials, such as the KUSF brand, which is the university’s intellectual property. I’ll be interested in hearing how that non-divorce works out.

Meanwhile there is the matter of expanding KDFC. On KQED’s Forum last week, Brenda Barnes, president of USC radio (which bought KUSF’s license is moving KDFC there) and managing director of the Classical Public Radio Network (which will operate KDFC locally), said many times that her organizations are looking to buy a signal, or signals, in the South Bay, where KDFC can’t be heard from either of its new facilities (the old KUSF on 90.3 and the old KNDL in Anguin on 89.9).

It could be that the USC people are also already thinking about 87.7 (the Channel 6 TV hack) in the South Bay. If that radiates from one of the mountains down there, it would do a good job. (The signal would be weak, but reach far, kind of like KFJC does now). That would be the best solution, I think; but it would also foreclose the 87.7 option for KUSF-in-exile, essentially screwing them over a second time. (So, there’s an assignment for both KUSF and Radio Valencia. Hurry up and see what can be done.)

The more likely option for KDFC is finding a college or university that would rather have money than continue operating a radio station, especially when a buyer comes calling. That’s the option USF took, and it’s a certain bet that Brenda Barnes and friends are already hard at work selling the same options to one or more of these FMs in the South Bay:

  • 89.1 KCEA Atherton, owned by Menlo-Atherton High School. Broadcasts with 100 watts¬† from a ridge¬† San Carlos. Small signal.
  • 89.3 KOHL Fremot, owned by Ohlone Community College. Covers the eastern part of the South Bay with 145 watts from the college campus in the foothills.
  • 89.7 KFJC Los Altos, owned by Foothill Junior College. Covers the South Bay well, from Black Mountain, with just 108 watts. This is the KUSF of the South Bay, and the station/community with the most to worry about.
  • 90.1 KZSU Stanford, owned by Stanford University. Covers Palo Alto and the central Peninsula with 500 watts from a hill on The Farm. KDFC’s 90.3 signal in San Franciso protects KZSU with a null in the direction of Stanford. The option here for the KDFC folks would be to buy KZSU and turn it into a KDFC repeater, or to take it dark and crank up the San Francisco signal. But then, there’s also…
  • 90.5 KSJS San Jose, owned by San Jose State University. This too has a commuity. And it covers the San Jose end of the South Bay well with 1500 watts on a high hill on the south side of town. 90.3 in The City also protects KSJS, so the same options for KDFC apply here as with KZSU.
  • 91.1 KCSM San Mateo, owned by the College of San Mateo. This is the Bay Area’s much-loved jazz station, and covers the Peninsula and Mid-South Bay pretty well, plus Oakland-Berkeley. Wattage-wise, it’s the most powerful of the options (11,000 watts), though the transmitter is not on a high site.
  • 91.5 KKUP Cupertino, owned by the Assurance Science Foundation. With 200 watts on Loma Prieta Mountain, KKUP reaches a large area, including all of Monterey Bay (Santa Cruz, Salinas, etc.) as well as the south part of the South Bay.

Another possibility for KDFC is buying a commercial station in the South Bay. There are many of those to choose from, if any is willing to sell. None will be cheap, but most would be better than the options above, with the conditional exceptions of KCSM and KFJC. For example, KCNL on 104.9, which Clear Channel unloaded last year for $5 million, would have been a good deal for the USC people. It serves the South Bay quite well with a 6,000 watt signal from the foothills near San Jose. KRTY from Los Gatos on 95.3 is another one with a similar-sized signal.

In any case, we know who is on the hunt and why. If they succeed, KDFC listeners should be happy. Listeners to the replaced station, or stations, will not be. Looking at the ratings, I am betting that there are more of the former than the latter. In the most recent rating period, KDFC was Number 7 overall (out of many dozens of signals), with a 3.9% share of Average Quater Hour listening, which is great for any station and huge for a classical one. It also had a cumulative audience of 632,000 people, none of which can get the station today on the signal they listened to during that ratings period.

[Later...] A february 10 post at RadioSurvivor.com.