FCC Scrutinizes KUSF Sale, Demands E-Mails from USF President

Categories: Business
What did USF President Stephen Privett know, and when did he know it?
The Federal Communications Commission is taking a hard look at the proposed sale of KUSF, as evidenced by a letter demanding receipts, communications, and other inside documents and correspondence among participants in the deal.

In a June 28, 2011 letter, the FCC asks USF president Stephen Privett for all documents sent and received over the last year among participants involved in the $3 million deal the university signed with Classical Public Radio Network to take over 90.3 FM. The FCC has not yet approved the sale.

According to the FCC letter, Privett has 30 days to hand over a year's worth of communications with all participants in the proposed deal.

"As far as I'm concerned this is a big fat, hairy wonderful deal," said Ted Dively, president of the board of directors of Friends of KUSF, which petitioned the FCC to reject the sale. "We think it's a positive step in restoring this resource to the community."

In response to our inquiry, USF sent us the following statement: 

The university will respond fully to the Commission's inquiry. Counsel to the university is preparing its response now, and when that response is complete, and submitted, it will be made public, as required by the FCC. The agreements with CPRN were drafted in full compliance with the Commission's rules, and both the university and CPRN have conducted themselves in full compliance with those rules since the agreements went into effect. We have no reason to believe that the Commission will not grant the assignment application.  

In its letter, the FCC said it wanted to know more about the deal before approving the sale, which consists of a series of interconnected transactions involving the University of Southern California and Entercom Communications. As proposed, the station will broadcast classical music, rather than the eclectic community programming that's been a fixture in San Francisco.

Under an FCC authorized interim agreement, the university allowed Classical Programming Radio Network to use the station's frequency until the sale became final. However, USF was supposed to keep the transmitter and broadcast equipment under university control, with a full-time employee overseeing its operations.

Friends of KUSF says the University violated these terms when it gut the campus broadcast facilities once the interim deal was signed.

Now, the university and other parties to the KUSF deal must produce sales receipts, personnel records, and other documents bearing on the question of whether USF misled the federal government.

"To knowingly and willfully make any false statement or conceal any material fact in reply to this inquiry is punishable by fine or imprisonment," the letter stated.

This doesn't mean the sale won't happen. But it certainly buys Friends of KUSF more time to make their case that the radio waves should belong to KUSF.

"We proved they lied to FCC. They tore out studios at the station on campus. But the deal is, you have to keep a studio that can be used, at any moment's notice, to start broadcasting," Dively said. "They might still approve the sale eventually. But it now looks like they might go to public hearing."

If it does, you can bet the room will be packed. 
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