Tuesday, January 18, 2011

News, Big News, About Bay Area Classical Radio

KDFC, the "classical music" station everybody loves to hate, has been sold to the University of Southern California, and will become a nonprofit. It's giving up its frequency (102.1) and moving to 89.9 and 90.3.

If those frequencies sound familiar, it's because KUSF was located at 90.3 - at least until 10 a.m. this morning, when the staff got blindsided. For now, at least, KUSF becomes a web-only station. This will increase their online presence greatly; presently, they can only have 100 online listeners at a time. Work being performed this week will allow thousands to listen at once.

One result of this is that KDFC will have a much weaker signal. I can't get KUSF on my stereo in Oakland; will I be able to get KDFC? WIll they get a stronger transmitter?

I understand, I think, why KDFC lost its old frequency: the sale didn't include the frequency, which the former owners get to keep. I do not understand how KDFC obtained access to KUSF's old frequency. I have email out looking for more information.

No, wait: here's an article at KUSF's web site explaining the situation: USF sold the frequency. assigning it to the Classical Public Radio Network. (Note to self: collect facts before writing.)

The big question for me, and probably for you, is whether this means that KDFC's programming is about to improve drastically because it will no longer be profit driven. The smaller question is, why were they sold? Their listernership was supposed to be huge; did that not translate into profitability? or not enough profitability?

12 comments:

Robert Gable said...

I haven't listened to KDFC now for a couple of years. I will give it a try again after the shift. And yes, I always thought they were doing reasonably well despite my complete lack of interest.

Michael Walsh said...

It's probably too much to hope that either station becomes more of a Český rozhlas, but any step in that direction would be a huge improvement.

Romain said...

The key motivator seems to be that Entercom wanted to clear the way to broadcast KUFX/KFOX on 102.1 FM. I wouldn't be surprised if building a "super station" had been Entercom's goal ever since purchasing KDFC from Bonneville in 2007.

Coming out of USC, I count $3.75M (90.3 FM from KUSF) plus $2.725M (89.9 FM plus two translators from KNDL in the north bay). It would be interesting to find out what resources USC is drawing from.

http://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/86058/deal-gives-usc-s-f-signal-moves-san-jose-s-k-fox-f

John Marcher said...

So what happens to the Met broadcasts on KUSF? Will KDFC pick them up?

calimac said...

They assure us that their announcing staff will remain unchanged. Considering the cretinousness on display here, I hold out little hope for much improvement in the programming.

Kevin said...

Well, the programming couldn't get much worse, right?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Who knows what will happen with the personnel and the programming? If the announcers are highly paid and the money isn't there to continue paying them at that level, will they stay? Will Bill Leuth, who has a graduate degree in music and says he loves opera, change his programming because the station no longer has to make a lot of money to survive?

Romain, thank you for digging up that information.

John, I would guess that KUSF will continue to host the Met broadcasts, but I'm curious whether KDFC will again have them. And curious whether I'll be able to pick them up at my house.

Kevin, yeah. calimac, I fear you might be right. But who knows?? KUSC has decent programming, and if the new KDFC follows their model....

Lisa Hirsch said...

Who knows what will happen with the personnel and the programming? If the announcers are highly paid and the money isn't there to continue paying them at that level, will they stay? Will Bill Leuth, who has a graduate degree in music and says he loves opera, change his programming because the station no longer has to make a lot of money to survive?

Romain, thank you for digging up that information.

John, I would guess that KUSF will continue to host the Met broadcasts, but I'm curious whether KDFC will again have them. And curious whether I'll be able to pick them up at my house.

Kevin, yeah. calimac, I fear you might be right. But who knows?? KUSC has decent programming, and if the new KDFC follows their model....

Brian said...

Hey Lisa,

If it's of any interest, here is the text of the letter KUSC sent out to its e-mail list regarding the "takeover" for what it's worth.

We have just announced that KUSC will be operating a noncommercial classical station in San Francisco and I am writing to offer a more detailed explanation of why we are doing this and what it will mean. First of all, this project in no way lessens our commitment to KUSC and to Southern California. On the contrary, we have designed the operational plan to ensure that the stations are separate companies, managed individually and working together only when it makes sense for both entities.

How did this begin? Classical radio in the United States has been transitioning for several years from commercial radio to noncommercial radio. Recently this transition has happened in Washington D.C. (which allowed us to recruit Dennis Bartel), New York City, Boston, Miami, and Seattle and in our own city when KMZT changed format a few years ago. San Francisco is the last major market with a traditional commercial classical station. A few years ago, I began exploring how KUSC might play a role in ensuring that classical radio remains alive and well in the Bay area. C.L. Max Nikias, the new president of the University of Southern California, was enthusiastic about the idea and he and the USC Board of Trustees agreed to purchase two stations that were for sale in the Bay area. We then approached the owner of the commercial classical station (KDFC) in San Francisco and they agreed to work with us to plan and execute a transition. We have offered all the employees of KDFC a job with the new nonprofit we are operating.

continued in next comment

Brian said...

How will this work? We have formed a separate company that will manage the Bay area stations and we have a minority partner working with us (we own 90%, they own 10%). This creates a separation between KUSC and the San Francisco stations ensuring that money raised in Los Angeles stays in Los Angeles and money raised in the Bay area stays in the Bay area. It also empowers the staff at both stations to act in the interest of their stations and their community. For years my title has been President of USC Radio and in that capacity I will continue to oversee KUSC as well as serve on the board of the Bay area company.

Will there be connections between the two stations? I will be the primary person at KUSC with responsibilities in Southern California and Northern California. For most of the rest of the KUSC staff, nothing will change. The only exception is membership. In the beginning at least, the KUSC membership department will help plan membership drives and maintain the database for the San Francisco stations. The current KDFC staff members do not have expertise in membership and the station does not have adequate staffing to absorb membership operations. For KUSC, providing membership services to KDFC allows us to reduce the amount we spend on fundraising by sharing those costs. Therefore, we see this as an area where the two organizations might be able to collaborate long term. However, we will not continue to do so if we cannot offer truly excellent service to members. We pride ourselves on being accessible and offering our members the best and fastest possible service. Rest assured that I will be monitoring this carefully.

What happens next? We will soon begin to operate the stations in the Bay area while we are awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval for the purchases. I will be working to recruit a board to help us govern the stations and we will quietly begin fundraising. I will also help the staff make the transition from the commercial world to the noncommercial world. Fortunately, Bill Lueth the longtime KDFC program director will transition to the new company and he will handle day to day operations in the Bay area. In the first few months I will be spending considerable time there developing relationships with staff and members of the arts community and cultivating support from donors. As the staff settles in, I will divide my time more equally between Los Angeles and San Francisco and ultimately I will function primarily as a board member for the San Francisco organization. KUSC has an outstanding staff and with their support I am confident I can take on this new responsibility while continuing to ensure that KUSC thrives.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Everyone at KUSC is excited about this opportunity and we are all available to answer questions and offer more information.

Thank you very much for your support of KUSC. Because of your support, KUSC is strong enough and respected enough that we can help establish a noncommercial classical station in San Francisco which that community can nurture and support just as you have nurtured KUSC.

Sincerely,

Brenda Barnes
President, Classical KUSC

Brian said...

How will this work? We have formed a separate company that will manage the Bay area stations and we have a minority partner working with us (we own 90%, they own 10%). This creates a separation between KUSC and the San Francisco stations ensuring that money raised in Los Angeles stays in Los Angeles and money raised in the Bay area stays in the Bay area. It also empowers the staff at both stations to act in the interest of their stations and their community. For years my title has been President of USC Radio and in that capacity I will continue to oversee KUSC as well as serve on the board of the Bay area company.

Will there be connections between the two stations? I will be the primary person at KUSC with responsibilities in Southern California and Northern California. For most of the rest of the KUSC staff, nothing will change. The only exception is membership. In the beginning at least, the KUSC membership department will help plan membership drives and maintain the database for the San Francisco stations. The current KDFC staff members do not have expertise in membership and the station does not have adequate staffing to absorb membership operations. For KUSC, providing membership services to KDFC allows us to reduce the amount we spend on fundraising by sharing those costs. Therefore, we see this as an area where the two organizations might be able to collaborate long term. However, we will not continue to do so if we cannot offer truly excellent service to members. We pride ourselves on being accessible and offering our members the best and fastest possible service. Rest assured that I will be monitoring this carefully.

What happens next? We will soon begin to operate the stations in the Bay area while we are awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval for the purchases. I will be working to recruit a board to help us govern the stations and we will quietly begin fundraising. I will also help the staff make the transition from the commercial world to the noncommercial world. Fortunately, Bill Lueth the longtime KDFC program director will transition to the new company and he will handle day to day operations in the Bay area. In the first few months I will be spending considerable time there developing relationships with staff and members of the arts community and cultivating support from donors. As the staff settles in, I will divide my time more equally between Los Angeles and San Francisco and ultimately I will function primarily as a board member for the San Francisco organization. KUSC has an outstanding staff and with their support I am confident I can take on this new responsibility while continuing to ensure that KUSC thrives.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Everyone at KUSC is excited about this opportunity and we are all available to answer questions and offer more information.

Thank you very much for your support of KUSC. Because of your support, KUSC is strong enough and respected enough that we can help establish a noncommercial classical station in San Francisco which that community can nurture and support just as you have nurtured KUSC.

Sincerely,

Brenda Barnes
President, Classical KUSC

calimac said...

"Bill Lueth the longtime KDFC program director will transition to the new company and he will handle day to day operations in the Bay area."

"Transition" is not a ... oh, never mind.

The big question is, can he change the cut of his programming jib to serve the somewhat superior tastes of his new masters, like the Vicar of Bray?