Radio Station Complex Relocation Should Not Take Place During FCC Relicensing

Complex relocations should never take place in a relicensing year. The move to a new location should be delayed, allowing KDVS to examine better site options.

License Renewal August 2021

KDVS has their FCC License coming up for Renewal on August 2nd, 2021. The application and all the materials must be up to standard by that date and the Communications Lawyer at UCOP submits it with all other supporting documentation the to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website. The approval decision, unless issues arise, will be issued by the FCC on December 2, 2021.

“Before we can renew a stations license, we must first determine whether, during the preceding license term, the licensee has served the public interest, has not committed any serious violations of the Communications Act or the FCCs rules, and has not committed other violations which, taken together, would constitute a pattern of abuse. To assist us in this evaluative process, a station licensee must file a renewal application (FCC Form 303-S).” The Public and Broadcasting (FCC 2021)

The license renewal process is time consuming for staff, requiring that all Departments assure that the on-line Public File is up-to-date

Community Ascertainment – Public Input on Renewal

In addition, during relicensing a period of Community Ascertainment and commenting occurs. The FCC hold that being given a broadcast license is a privilege that is earned by the station serving the public interest of those within the broadcast coverage area. Thus the licensees (the Regents) and management of KDVS are stewards of the public trust. The station must begin a process of soliciting comments from the public regarding the service the station has performed within the Community of service, their listenership and others in the public. These mandatory recorded announcements must be broadcast on a specific schedule established by the FCC – beginning in August and ending in late October. Any interruption of broadcasting that would interfere with these notifications being aired complicates things further.

Being enmeshed in a controversial move that may impact the service provided to that community is not very astute during renewal periods. It is why commercial stations rarely announce format changes in the year that they are renewing their license. They get a tsunami of negative letters to the FCC which are then referred back to be placed in the station file. Some may even submit Formal Objections to Deny or informal opposition to renewal.

Some correspondents may have information regarding the station performance that the FCC may believe warrants deeper investigation. This can extend the renewal process over several years.

The University could do much to reduce these negative comments about the licensee by suspending or cancelling the Gunrock decision and clarifying that they will now consider several other larger potential sites that could maintain the KDVS music library. They could foster goodwill by meeting with various stakeholders about the suitability of those locations in preserving the diversity of KDVS Programming for the Community of License. These announcements must be very public. To properly acquire input this process would take months. The Campus Media Board and other shared governance groups will be unlikely to meet until fall semester.

Studio Migration and “Keeping the Lights On” Disrupts Licensing

Any change in studio location, even temporary, requires letters of notification and approval from the FCC. All functionality of the station must be maintained from site-to-site: the Emergency Announcement System, the Studio Transmitter Link. Access to the public to the Public Files and to staff contact within normal daytime operational hours must be maintained.

As well, the FCC expects licensees to operate a minimal amount of hours each day. “Going dark” also requires notification, and in some cases, approval from the FCC.

If the relocation of the main studio occurs before relicensing is completed in December 2021 the FCC renewal process will be immensely complicated with possibly two requests for change in studio location, potential notifications of non-operation (going dark,) construction permits for the new studios, etc.

Save KDVS believes it would be better to make no change in studio location until the renewal process is submitted and the FCC processes it sometime around December 2nd, 2021. It allows the GM and core staff to be focused on the renewal process, which also includes community ascertainment. 

What’s the Rush?

While portions of Upper Freeborn are potential seismic hazards, no such ranking applies to Lower Freeborn. This was why KDVS and other campus units were allowed to remain in Lower Freeborn. The University has not clarified which areas of Upper Freeborn are incapable of retrofit.

The University has consistently failed to justify why a relocation must be done on such a rushed schedule, or even what the schedule actually is. According to a University spokesperson, although the new building will not be a student-use structure, there is no actual plan as to what will replace Freeborn. The rubble from the demolition will simply be used as infill for the cavernous crater created. Then some years down the road the infill will be re-excavated and removed and a new foundation and basement laid for a so-called “exemplary project.” So the space will remain vacant for years. At best it will be a grassy knoll, at worst an unsightly rubble field surrounded by a chain-link fence.

Why not coordinate the demolition with the construction of whatever undisclosed “exemplary project” is put into the “expensive, Central campus real estate”? There would be no rush to evacuate KDVS and other student-run facilities from Freeborn.

Pandemic-Related Failures Of Established Protocols

It has been increasingly found nationwide and globally that during the current Covid-19 pandemic, academic officials have eliminated their normative procedures and policies of fact-finding and consultation, as well as marginalizing their already created decision-making “shared governance” boards. This has led to a major statement by the American Association of University Professors “Principles of Academic Governance during the COVID-19 Pandemic” calling on redoubled efforts by University leadership to maintain the system of shared governance, not only with faculty, but with students and other stakeholders, as well.

In the case of Freeborn demolition and KDVS, the UC Davis Administration has sidelined two important committees established by the Regents to provide information and guidance to the Chancellor and the University President. The first is the Council on Student Affairs and Fees which should decide on the legitimacy of using the $66 per student annual Student Health and Safety Fee intended for Seismic Renovation and Retrofit for Demolition of Freeborn. The fee was intended for safety needs in student fee constructed and use buildings, not for the entire demolition of a previously student-use building expropriated by the campus Administration. One is reminded of the old Vietnam-era military doublespeak “we had to destroy the village to save it.”

Campus Media Board Left In The Dark

The other “shared governance” group not consulted was the Campus Media Board which consists of Students, Faculty, Staff and Administrators (in an ex-officio role). It also has hearings taking in the advice and perspectives of campus and non-campus stakeholders. The Media Board has been tasked by the Regents to oversees the operations and finances of KDVS and has always been intimately involved in major projects and protecting the station from undue interference in programming by the Administration, ASUCD and others. Media Board recommendations are provided to the Chancellor and University President for approval. The Campus Media Board was not involved in the approval process for the new studio location of KDVS. They also need to be immediately informed of the process that KDVS intends to undertake during the license renewal process,

Both of these groups have had difficulties arranging meetings and hearings on these important issues during the pandemic. They need to be involved as they are a critical part of the consultative and shared governance system on the UC Davis campus. They will need to meet in the Fall, when, and if, students are allowed to resume full on-campus course work.

Proper Pathways at Deliberative Pace

The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to misappropriate student registration fees simply to avoid scrutiny. Neither should a student organization undergoing FCC Renewal be moved without the assistance of the Campus Media Board and experienced former staff.

This is precisely why a one-year time scale was not a reasonable possibility for KDVS to move from seismically-safe Lower Freeborn into a new site, let alone a new site that seems likely to extensively reduce KDVS operations.

It’s possible that the UCD administration didn’t even know that KDVS was up a license renewal starting this summer. If they did, then approving a move was setting up KDVS for failure. KDVS should not be compelled to move into a space inadequate for its needs. Even if such a space can be found, a move should be delayed until after the KDVS FCC license is renewed.

With more time, additional options for more appropriate studio siting can be explored, which is what the University initially promised. The involvement of KDVS core staff, volunteers, the Campus Media Board and the views of the varied stakeholders in the community can be properly ascertained. A better solution can be reached.

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