Monday, March 14, 2011

farewell 102.1 kdfc-- hello public supported classical!

I know, it sucks as a blog title. But it's a big deal! I remember listening to KDFC basically since moving to the Bay Area in 1992. At first it was because it was the only station my dad ever had on at home or in the car. We had always listened to classical. It just fit us. This was why I was the kid who had to pretend like she knew about pop music -- I had to fake it so many times.

(True story: 4th grade, on the phone with a classmate and fumbling with the name of a pop singer and finally decided no glamorous pop singer would be named PaulA Abdul, so I said it kind of fast: "um that album by Paul Abdul." Nevermind that had I actually ever heard her sing, the very female voice should have given it away.)

But that's not how a 4th grader trying to look cool is thinking. Oh, the shame of not knowing MC Skat Cat.

But when I got old enough to make my own choices about what to listen to, though I kind of tried to keep up with pop, I got bored and kept turning back to KDFC (or Live 105.1, back during 90s alternative/grunge, which made me feel like I at least wasn't TOTALLY cut off from my age group and also actually had some fab lyrics. This was before I discovered folk-pop singers who are all about lyrics, a la Dar Williams).

So suddenly, Classical 102.1 was no longer Classical. At all. 102.1 was suddenly some jarring thing blaring from the speakers. There's an interesting story about commercial versus nonprofit airwaves, and what's accessible to whom. Here's the explanation email sent by Bill Lueth, the station's president, which I'm copying here both to provide that context as well as to give info to local folks who might be interested:

We are understandably receiving many calls and emails about our transition to 90.3 and 89.9 FM and our transition to nonprofit status.  We know this is a difficult transition and we wish we had more control and an opportunity to make a longer, smoother transition.  Here are some answers to common questions and comments we’re receiving. 
Why did this happen?
 KDFC’s previous owner decided to make a format change on the 102.1 frequency they owned.  KDFC’s staff and station name are now rebuilding KDFC as a listener-supported station on new frequencies.   KDFC was the last commercial classical station in a major US city still being operated by a commercial radio company.  In New York City, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Washington D.C., Seattle, and Los Angeles, commercial radio stations have all disappeared, in most cases taking their excellent frequencies with them, and leaving nonprofits to rebuild noncommercial classical stations on lesser frequencies.  That is exactly what is happening here. 
Why couldn’t you wait to make the transition until you could cover the whole Bay Area?
 The Bay Area is an extremely expensive and crowded radio market.  Stations are not easy to come by.  Furthermore, once you purchase a station, the FCC requires you to operate it, making it impossible to buy a station and hold onto it while you wait to purchase others.  Therefore when we found 90.3 and 89.9 were for sale, and we wanted to buy them before someone else could, we had to operate them. 
If I cannot receive your on 90.3 and 89.9 what do I do?
 The response to this varies by region so look for your region below.  Later in this message we will provide technology options to help you receive KDFC in the interim:
South Bay and Peninsula:  It is heartbreaking to us that we will not immediately have a signal that serves the Peninsula and the South Bay.  We are already looking to buy a station in this region and the great news is that the University of Southern California has offered to buy a station if we can find one.  We have hired two brokers to contact stations and ask if the owners are willing to sell.  We wish we could give you a timeline but we are not in control of when a station will come on the market.  We have reports from some listeners in the South bay who have been able to pick up 89.9, but the coverage there is spotty.
East Bay:  Some listeners in the East Bay are receiving our 89.9 FM signal (and/or our 90.3 signal,) but others are not.  We have a plan to upgrade 89.9 soon and that should help, but we have to wait for the FCC to approve our purchase of the station to start the upgrade.  Until then we do not officially own the stations. As soon as they give us the word, we will upgrade 89.9 and that should help.  We are also looking for stations we could potentially acquire in the East Bay to round out our coverage in the region.
San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley:  We can ultimately get you a good signal on 90.3; however, we have to wait a couple of months for the FCC to approve our purchase of the stations.  Once they do, we can upgrade 90.3 FM and move the transmitter and antenna (it is currently on top of a building at USF), and solve your signal problems. Many listeners in your area are able to hear 89.9.
Daly City, San Bruno, South San Francisco, Pacifica:  We can ultimately get you a good signal on 90.3; however, we have to wait a couple of months for the FCC to approve our purchase of the stations.  Once they do, we can upgrade 90.3 FM and move the transmitter and antenna (it is currently on top of a building at USF), and solve your signal problems.
How will I know when you have upgraded the signal in my area?
 The best way is to join Club KDFC on our website.  We will provide regular email updates to our Club members.  You can also check our website regularly because we will post updates there as well.  And when we make progress we will do our best to get the word out to the media.
How can I hang in there with you while you are improving your signals and expanding your coverage?
There are a number of ways that you can access KDFC even if you are not receiving a good signal right now:
Comcast Digital Cable Television: Comcast carries KDFC on channel 981 in most of the Bay Area.
Internet streaming:  You can listen to KDFC on your computer by going to and click on “Listen Live” at the top right corner of the screen.
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad App:  Stream KDFC via our app, available at the iTunes app store.
Internet radio:  Listeners in the South Bay and elsewhere are reporting great success with the Squeezebox, a device that works like a radio but picks up the KDFC web stream.  It is available at Fry’s, Best Buy or any other electronics retailer.
How can I support the nonprofit KDFC?
We have formed a new nonprofit that is operating KDFC.  The entire KDFC staff is now employed by the nonprofit.  To contribute write a check payable to:
The Classical Public Radio Network
201 Third Street
12th Floor
San Francisco CA 94103
I have to say that although I know there will be pledge drives and such now, I do envision a cool listener supported classical station that works for the listener. KDFC as a commercial operation was an incredible station (I was elated-- ELATED-- to find it streaming online when I was in DC 2000-03). And the public classical stations have been of varying quality that I've heard. BUT-- I was sick of the diamond jewelry commercials, the Lexus event-of-the-year commercials , and especially cringed at the commercials that the talented radio hosts had to voice.

And KDFC the Nonprofit has such a great headstart. Those totally charming and brilliant radio hosts are key-- they were always friendly, funny, fabulous and they still will be. Their mix of music will still be amazing and now, if we're lucky, we'll be hearing even more of it.

I'm hoping this community that loves KDFC-- worldwide streaming! not just the Bay Area-- will step in to support the station we love, no matter where on the airwaves it lives.