Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Turn Turn Turn: KUSF Stops Broadcasting

Shocking news as San Francisco's legendary low-watt FM radio station, KUSF, has abruptly ceased broadcasting after 30+ years of playing groundbreaking music:

It was business as usual on Tuesday morning for KUSF music director Howard Ryan, who played an eclectic mix of music while promoting a 10 a.m. in-studio appearance from local band the Pickpocket Ensemble.

When that hour arrived, his show abruptly went off the air - part of a complicated deal that gives classical music station KDFC the college station's 90.3 frequency - and leaves KUSF off the FM dial for the first time since 1977.

University of San Francisco officials said the station's blend of music and community programming will still be available by webcast. At the station late Tuesday morning, the somber group of DJs and staff felt angry and betrayed, saying that they didn't learn about the deal until minutes before the signal went dead.

The reasons for this are complicated. USC purchased the local classical music station, KDFC, and will convert that station to a non-profit. KDFC will then move to KUSF's frequency, 90.3. Once again aging Baby Boomers are taking precious resources from Generation X!

KUSF has been one of the prime outlets for the Unheard Music: music outside - sometimes way outside - the mainstream. Although KUSF was known mainly as a punk/indie station, it also had shows dedicated to roots music, ragtime, 20th century classical, J-pop, and more. Yeah, you could jump on the internet and find that stuff, but really it was a lot of fun to be able to dial in to 90.3 and find something unexpected. KUSF was as essential to the DIY culture as Dischord Records or CBGB's, pretty impressive for a low-watt college station with a broadcast range of a couple of miles.

KUSF will take the $3.75 million that they earned from this transaction to expand their on-line presence, which is good news. KUSF will not disappear, and may well expand. But, this really is the end of an era.

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