KUSF radio is interrupting its normally scheduled programming to bring you … Spiders' games? Some KUSF volunteers are in an uproar after General Manager Steve Runyon, one of the few paid employees and USF's director of media studies, agreed to pre-empt programming to run the rest of the new hockey team's season on the air for a sum rumored to be around $8,000 — without consulting the staff. Though underwritten cultural shows like Treasures Untold, Chinese Star radio, and the Turkish hour will be hardest hit, the alternative music department is protesting loudest.
“Pre-empting regular cultural programming for commercial sports is the antithesis of what a noncommercial, nonprofit radio station like KUSF is all about,” says Derek Vadala, the program coordinator for new music and a volunteer for nearly three years. Runyon, who reportedly told volunteers that sports could be a useful recruiting tool for the university and a prime way to generate a crossover audience, disagrees.
“The Spiders need some help in the city,” Runyon says. “KUSF has always supported the underdog, and we're just extending that to sports. They'll soon be picked up by a commercial station, and we'll move on. We don't want to be the next KNBR.” He calls the dissenters a “small but very vocal minority,” adding that nary a cultural program volunteer has yet complained. But is it fair to compare professional sports — which have a vast network of outlets, no matter how minor the team — with ethnic minority-geared programs like Chinese-language news or avant-garde music, which is woefully underrepresented on mainstream radio, let alone give it late-breaking precedence over it?
“The station only gets a third of its operating budget from the university,” Runyon says. “We have to go outside for the rest of our funding; that's the bottom line.” Worried that the Spiders controversy will set a precedent for “chasing after any check-waver who walks in the door,” as Director of Community Affairs Josh Wilson put it, volunteers passed around a petition at a recent staff meeting. “The Spiders are just a symptom of the real crux of the problem,” Vadala says, “which is the sense of futility of the volunteers, the issue of management accountability and the role it should play in a volunteer-run organization. But we just want what's best for the station.”
911's a Joke
Sometimes the rumor mill isn't too far off the mark. Despite the Trocadero's ads that the SOMA club was to be “closed for much-needed renovations” for two weeks, the word was that it had been temporarily shut down by Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Troc management finally came clean when it was forced to post a notice stating the reason for closure. “We were the last SOMA club to serve downtime as a result of the ABC sweeps,” explains manager George Lazaneo. “We haven't had any technical violations of the ABC charter — no minors being served on premises, no drinking after hours — this is just the result of noise complaints.” According to Lazaneo, the violation was due to an excessive amount of 911 police service calls placed over the course of one year — 210, to be exact, from one highly aggravated neighbor. “The thing is,” says a disgruntled Lazaneo, “a third of those calls were made on nights when the club wasn't even open. When he took us to small claims court he lost on appeal, but that's inadmissible at an ABC hearing. So, rather than risk a 45-day shutdown, we just took the voluntary 15 days. At least it gave us a chance to get some remodeling done.” Time served, the Trocadero will reopen Wednesday, Jan. 17, for Bondage a Go Go.
By Sia Michel, Silke Tudor