KPSU struggles with regulations

PSU radio DJ Adam Barr felt the limitations of KPSU’s unique relationship with Portland Public Schools when in 2001 he was disciplined for airing indecent material.

Aired during what, for nearly every other college station, are “safe harbor” hours, the track contained two words specifically forbidden by the KPSU handbook.

The FCC, the government agency responsible for policing public airwaves, normally prohibits indecent material except during these “safe harbor” hours.

“Safe harbor hours are between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when indecent material can be played assuming an arguable degree of artistic merit,” said Ann Robinson, advisor to Oregon State’s radio station.

The words the FCC considers indecent were determined by the 1978 Supreme Court case FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation. These “Pacifica 7” words are banned at all times at KPSU due to their agreement with Portland Public Schools for the use of the city-wide broadcast on KBPS at 1450 AM.

Adam Barr was aware of these restrictions when he played “Ed-ucation” performed by comedian Eddie Griffith. Barr says he interrupted play as he became aware of his violation.

KPSU has a “three strikes” disciplinary policy. Initially, Program Manager Kaja Brown gave Barr two strikes and five week’s suspension.

When Station Manager David Jimenez learned of the extent of Barr’s punishment, he decided to invite Barr to come back on the air after two weeks of suspension.

Jimenez said that since such cases happen so frequently, he likes to deal with them in a way that encourages enthusiasm and appeals to personal responsibility.

Barr acknowledges the need to maintain good relations with Portland Public Schools, but lamented, “I know at the radio station in Klamath Falls, at OIT, DJs can’t swear themselves, but can play music with cussing for its artistic merit. To me, that’s fair. Here we have to go beyond what the FCC requires.”

In fact, KPSU is the only campus station within the Oregon University System to not have “safe harbor” hours. But to Jimenez, this doesn’t effect programming drastically enough to overshadow the positive aspects of being the only college in the Portland area to broadcast city-wide.