Given its cultural history, the City by the Bay is one of the most attractive markets for a prospective new low-power community broadcaster. Now comes word that two applicants for a new FM radio frequency will soon share a dial slot there.
In 2013, San Francisco Public Press and San Francisco Community Radio were among several applicants seeking a license to start a radio station heard at 102.5 MHz on the FM band. The opportunity arose after the Federal Communications Commission changed its rules to allow more low-power stations across the country — many in large cities where the number of existing local signals had prevented new stations previously.
Now the FCC has resolved the 102.5 “mutually exclusive” applications by accepting an agreement between the organizations; their stations will take six-hour shifts, airing from separate studios and alternating time on the one frequency.
San Francisco Community Radio was formed in 2011 by former volunteers of the now-gone community station KUSF(FM). Since its demise, “community programming has been woefully under-represented on the broadcast airwaves in San Francisco,” they wrote in the license application. Their mission is “educating, engaging and inspiring the citizens of San Francisco by operating a community-focused, independent, educational audio program content source via radio (LPFM), and the Internet.” Henry Wimmer is CEO, its engineer is Bill Ruck.
San Francisco Public Press is a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization that promises “context-rich, nonpartisan journalism that fills the void of hard-hitting accountability reporting left by the downsizing of the commercial press over the last decade.” Its application says approximately 70 freelance journalists and volunteers create content to “encourage conversation among under-served communities.” It has an online presence and has published quarterly newspapers in San Francisco since 2010. Lila Lahood is publisher, Albert Davis is consulting engineer.
San Francisco Community Radio plans to operate from nearby Sutro Tower, the Bay Area’s famous 970-foot-tall broadcast structure, while San Francisco Public Press plans to operate from the Bernal Heights area, a southern neighborhood home to a radio tower on a prominent rocky hill. SFPP programming will air during the morning and afternoon drive slots, while SFCR will air middays and overnight.
Sorting through eight original applications for the frequency, the FCC had applied its comparative points system. Those two and two others —SF Indiefest and Outsound — made the cut as tentative selectees. They were given time to file time-share agreements or resolve their “mutual exclusivities”; a series of complaints from the various applicants flew back and forth in the form of informal objections, petitions to deny and time-share agreements. The other two eventually were dismissed.