KPSU loses AM signal

After airing for over 15 years, KPSU, Portland State’s student-run radio station, had its signal permanently revoked from KBPS 1450 AM after a controversial on-air incident occurred last Thursday night.

After airing for over 15 years, KPSU, Portland State’s student-run radio station, had its signal permanently revoked from KBPS 1450 AM after a controversial on-air incident occurred last Thursday night. However, prior to the incident, Portland Public Schools—the owner of KBPS—had already decided that it would not renew its contract with the college station.

At around 10:55 p.m., panelists on KPSU’s “Debate Hour” briefly entered into a discussion about sodomy. At the end of the conversation, one of the guests said, “I think we can all agree that sodomy is great, and we want to do anything we can to encourage it.”

In addition, one of the panelists said, “I’ve decided that you can do anything you want as long as you can pay FCC fines.”

Though KPSU did not violate any licensing guidelines defined by the Federal Communications Commission, it failed to comply with the obscenity clause outlined in its contract with KBPS, said KBPS General Manager Bill Cooper.

According to the contract, KPSU is restricted from broadcasting any obscene or indecent content. In addition, it is required to comply with a conservative interpretation of the FCC guidelines.

“[KBPS] broadcasts in the public interest,” Cooper said. “That’s what our goal is and we need to take a conservative approach to the content that is aired on this radio station.”

Cooper was informed about Thursday’s program on Friday morning through various online blogs. After reaching a “unanimous” decision with others in the PPS, Cooper said the decision was made to terminate its contract with KPSU, and the station’s signal was shut down that day. However, the contract also designates Cooper as the one who ultimately makes the final decision on whether or not KPSU violated any on-air content restrictions.

In a letter addressed to PSU student publications adviser Judson Randall even before the incident, the school district revealed that June 30, 2010 would have been the last day KPSU would air on KBPS. The KPSU staff was not immediately notified of the contract rejection because PPS feared that a DJ could retaliate over the air by violating FCC guidelines, which could ultimately lead to the district’s license being revoked, Judson said.

“This ends 15-plus years of student broadcasting on the AM band for 59 hours each week,” he said.

According to its website, KBPS is a student station operated out of Benson High School. As a result, KPSU shared time on the PPS radio frequency that often times has younger listeners during the day.

Commenting on the different demographics of listeners, KPSU’s station manager, Jeremy Hardy, said, “You’ve got a kid-friendly radio and then you’ve got college students…That’s kind of a clash of philosophies.”

“I think [Cooper’s] demeanor has been very disrespectful to us, but we have definitely broken some rules,” Hardy said. “In a sense he really does have a right to defend KBPS and to watch out for its license.”

According to Cooper, KPSU DJs have shown a continuous pattern of inappropriate behavior over the years.

“In the past there has been profanity spoken by the DJs and in the music that they aired,” he said. “[There has been] complaining about KBPS regulating KPSU, but we’re the landlord and KPSU was the tenant, and when you’re the tenant and you break the rules, you’re asked to go someplace else.”

Randall said that over the years there have been only two instances in which KPSU violated FCC regulations.

The contract states that, for the first violation, KPSU would be suspended for 24 hours, and for 48 hours for the subsequent violation. However, no action was ever taken, according to Judson.

KPSU is still available through its online stream and through its weak signal on 98.1 FM on PSU’s campus. Doug Friend, KPSU’s incoming station manager and current music director, believes that breaking with PPS could be beneficial to the station.

“The day we found out that we were cut we stepped up our online presence,” Friend said. “We’re looking at it as an opportunity to push new technologies.”

In addition, Friend said that KPSU is also looking into FM/HD radio options, in addition to increasing its online presence.

“We’re committed to providing a place where people can get hands-on broadcasting experience,” he said. “I think people should be able to express themselves.”

According to Friend, KPSU is going through a series of hearings to determine what happened on Thursday’s show.

“[KPSU has had] a surprising amount of support from the community,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to what we provide to the community.”

The station’s webstream can be listened to 24 hours a day at