Portland Public Schools screws KPSU

Let’s be honest: there are only a handful of people who give ashit about high-school football. There are, of course, high schoolstudents and those people related to high school students, thereare those people whose way of resolving post-adolescent failure isto wallow in the past and then there are those maladjustedindividuals whose sexual interest is peaked by the sight ofteenaged boys in tight pants, teenaged girls in cheerleading skirtsor teenaged outcasts in marching band uniforms.

Now take that cross-section of society and apply it to BensonHigh School. You have interest from the students and parents atBenson High School, people who once achieved glory within theathletic programs of Benson High School and those people whosesexual fetishes are directly focused on the sports programs ofBenson High School. And with Benson’s painful record of 2-6 thisfootball season even the fetishists are probably having theirdoubts by now.

Why then, one is left to wonder, is Benson High School footballpreempting KPSU programming Friday nights?

The answer to that question belongs to Portland Public Schools,which owns the 1450 AM frequency that KPSU broadcasts on, citywide,and Bill Cooper, the recently hired school district stationmanager. PPS has, since the middle of August, been threatening notto renew KPSU’s $46,000 contract. In initial negotiations, PortlandPublic Schools offered a contract amending the amount of time KPSUcould have for broadcasts, then suddenly decided to refuse renewalat all, then changed course again settling to renew but with BensonHigh School sports given airtime priority four times a month. Thenew contract also extends the already conservative boundariesplaced on KPSU by the FCC, further limiting the station’s play listand programs.

Throughout the negotiations (or lack thereof), the schooldistrict and Cooper maintained their concern with the content ofKPSU’s programming. KPSU station manager Ava Hegedus, as quoted bythe Vanguard, said of Cooper’s moral misgivings, “What he said was,’Well I’ve heard anecdotally that you have questionable hip-hopprogramming.'”

By choosing to single out hip-hop, Cooper betrays that the issueis not so much one of moral integrity, but one of latent racism.Hip-hop, while not only the largest-selling musical genre in theUnited States right now, is also the traditional scapegoat forthose moral hygienists whose limited view of the black community isone of violence and drug use.

I’m not calling Bill Cooper a racist, but I am wondering if theformer anchor for conservative news station 860 KPAM was bringing apersonal agenda to the table during negotiations. It wouldcertainly explain the amended contract, the moral resolve and thebegrudging agreement; it was Cooper himself who pulled the contractentirely, leaving one to speculate whether his decision was usurpedby a more rational administrator within the school district.

In the years KPSU has been sharing call numbers with the schooldistrict, the Portland musical landscape has gone through anynumber of transformations and the station and its student DJs havealways been representative of this. From politically edged punk, toviolent electronica, to the most benign indie rock, KPSU has alwaysplayed the music of the day and, with hip-hop’s wide appeal, itmakes perfect sense that KPSU would be playing a fair share of thegenre.

If Bill Cooper is going to be the moral safeguard for thelisteners of KPSU, then perhaps he should actually listen to thestation instead of relying on anecdotal information to base hisdecisions on. KPSU is a community radio station and has served wellin its role for many years now, a fact I hope the school districtwill recognize. I hate to think of student broadcasting heldhostage by the same conservative agenda currently homogenizing therest of the U.S. media.

Dylan Tanner can be reached at [email protected]