Protesters gathered in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon against the sale of the University of San Francisco’s bandwidth for radio station KUSF to the University of Southern California.
“They forced everyone out of the building Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. after they sold KUSF to the classical station without telling anyone,” said former KUSF disc jockey Steve Abbate, also known as ‘Stereo Steve’.
The biggest concern around the sale was that the community would lose its diversity, according to several speakers, including host and producer Farinaz Agharabi. “How many stations do you know that play 13 other languages? We are a diverse community, and this station represents that,” Agharabi said. “It has to stay!”
KUSF music director Irwin Swirnoff was also concerned for the community.
“It is not about a format change or classical music, it’s about robbing a community of its voice,” Swirnoff said. “USC does not serve us. This is our station! Whose station? Our station!” Swirnoff chanted to the crowd of around 100 protesters wearing various “Save KUSF” paraphernalia.
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi made an appearance at the protest around 1:30 p.m. before attending the Board of Supervisors meeting. “I consider it reprehensible that the USF Administration did not provide some logical conversation or explanation,” Mirkarimi said.
He told the crowd that if the article opposing the sale of KUSF’s FCC license to broadcast on 90.3 FM did not go through in City Hall, the fight would not be over.
“If we go down, we go down as warriors of public access,” Mirkarimi said.
Former USF student and volunteer disc jockey Edna Barron also said the efforts against commercialism taking over community radio was not going to soon falter.
“This doesn’t end today, tomorrow, or at the FCC,” Barron said. “We aren’t dead. We are like a ghost with unfinished business.”
Protesters spoke during the supervisors’ weekly meeting. A volunteer disc jockey of more than 20 years who goes by Jet began by saying to the board: “Thank you for letting me use your microphone today. Please help us get our microphone back to help serve the community.”
The online station for KUSF, kusf.org, has only 15 online listeners as opposed to the 50,000 listeners that the radio broadcast circulated, said Jet. “We have been forsaken. Our radio voices have been silenced,” Jet said.
The Board of Supervisors agreed to extend the vote on the article that opposes the radio sale until next Tuesday, Feb. 8.