Monday, October 31, 2016


Last week the bankruptcy trustee for Pataphysical Broadcasting Foundation, licensee of the former KUSP-FM in Santa Cruz, California, sold the station’s license to Educational Media Foundation (EMF) for $605,000. EMF had the highest bid in an auction for the FM license, the licenses for four translators and the tangible assets of the organization.

As we reported in early August [link], KUSP ceased broadcasting at end of July and then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to settle its debts, estimated at over $800,000. Some of the former station’s creditors will not receive full payment. The bankruptcy trustee also received a $600,000 bid from KCRW, Santa Monica.

EMF is the nation’s largest noncommercial religious broadcaster. It owns and distributes two satellite-delivered Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) formats known as K-LOVE and Air1.  Both formats already are heard in Santa Cruz on FM translators.


There are a number of lessons from KUSP’s failure that all noncommercial broadcasters can learn from, particularly stations licensed to community organizations.

KUSP suffered from “Pacifica Syndrome,” a dysfunctional condition often associated with Pacifica Radio, perhaps the next noncom to face a similar fate.

As a public service, here are five essential questions that station management should answer to determine if their station has Pacifica Syndrome:

• Are your Board members divided into “factions” that stridently disagree about the governance, programming and purpose of the station?

• Is there a prevalent belief within your station that it is more important to get your station’s politics right than get the “radio basics” right?

• Does your station have internal committees with the power to overrule management decisions?

• Can the station’s members vote to overturn the management of the station?

• Do members of your governing Board feel that decisions made in Board meetings are more important than what goes over the air and on digital media?

If you said “yes” to three or more of these questions you should take action to prevent your station from being the “next KUSP.”


Podtrac [link] has released its latest list of the Top 20 podcasts and noncom public media publishers continue to dominate the chart. Of the 19 publishers identified in the September rankings, 13 (68%) are affiliated with public radio outlets.

NPR publishes 6 of the Top 20 podcasts, PRX/Radiotopia publishes three and WNYC Studios and This American Life both publish 2 of the podcasts.

FYI – Note that no specific access or listening metrics are provided for the chart entries. There is no way to tell how close or far apart #1 is from #2 or #20. In the fine print Podtrac says: Ranking of these shows is determined by a proprietary Podtrac algorithm which uses publicly available data.

So, show us the data data please. Without some sort of metrics, the Top 20 list feels like an Ouija Board.

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