After filing for bankruptcy, KUSP seeks buyer for license

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Public radio station KUSP in Santa Cruz, Calif., is selling off what’s left of its assets, including its license, to settle its substantial debt after filing for bankruptcy Aug. 12.

At least one noncommercial entity is looking to bid for KUSP’s license, the Monterey County Weekly reports. The Community Radio Phoenix Project, a group of former KUSP staffers, members and volunteers, has raised $80,000 so far.

John Richardson, the bankruptcy trustee in charge of selling the station’s assets, told the paper that he expects the license will bring in “a couple hundred thousand up to a half a million” and that he has received three or four inquiries from possible buyers.

Mik Benedek, g.m. of public radio station KAZU in Pacific Grove, Calif., declined to tell the paper whether his station’s licensee is considering a bid. KUSP and California State University Monterey Bay previously explored a merger, but the deal fell through.

KUSP’s $843,000 in debt includes amounts owed to public media entities, such as $357,000 to NPR, $56,000 to American Public Media, $12,000 to CPB, and $10,000 to the Pacifica Foundation.

The station sought a sale to California’s Classical Public Radio Network last year but opted against the deal after receiving a large donation. It switched to a Triple A format in an effort to improve its financial situation. KUSP had also explored a partnership in 2014 with an undisclosed public broadcaster, which also failed to proceed.

  • MarkJeffries

    Well, if the Community Radio Phoenix Project gets ahold of KUSP, you can pretty much kiss the station goodbye–unless they buck up and become an NPR member. What no one amongst that crowd wants to admit is pure and simple–that the NPR drive time news shows were bringing in most of the pledge money to keep that station going. Is anything going to change that? Nope.

    • Brad Deltan

      I can’t speak to whether or not that’s actually true without seeing their books, but I’d be inclined to agree with you that ME/ATC probably were bringing the bulk of the pledge dollars.

      Problem is, they weren’t bringing in anywhere near enough pledge dollars to offset the high cost of airing those programs. I think KUSP made the right decision to drop all NPR news/talk programming; there’s just not enough room in that market for two NPR news/talk stations, and KAZU has effectively cornered the news/talk audience by being, well, all-news/talk.

      The problem was that KUSP made the decision to go all-music at least five years too late, probably more like ten years. It’s a direct decision of failed leadership; people who either wouldn’t or couldn’t see the clear trendlines and drove the beast into the ground instead of trying to fix things early enough when it might’ve been possible. People who preferred to listen to comforting lies (mostly told to themselves, I’d imagine) rather than confronting a painful truth.

      So yes, I’d be inclined to agree that if CRPP gets the license, we’ll see more of the same problems that led to KUSP’s death in the first place. But I’d reserve full judgment until we knew who, exactly, makes up the CRPP. Sometimes the staff knows exactly what should be done, it’s the board (ownership) that’s making all the mistakes.

      • MarkJeffries

        I would tend to agree with you–and I’ve said in the past that going against a heritage AAA station like KPIG was foolhardy, even if you were going for a more sophisticated approach than their patented hippie-hick air style. But AAA’s the only public radio music format that doesn’t have a rapidly aging audience, so what do you do?

        And I have the feeling that if they’d gone classical, the volunteers who did the classical music shows on KSUP would’ve rebelled against management telling them to program more like KDFC or KUSC, but it’s proven that today’s classical music audience doesn’t want pompous lecturers and wants nothing more than warhorses and chamber music. As distasteful as it would be to surrender to Classical Public Radio Network and turning the station into a repeater of KDFC, it could be that it’s the only realistic way out.