Left Hand Scratches Left Ear

If you don't know the background, this story in the SF Chronicle might be puzzling. Why would the San Francisco Unified School District loan $200,000 to KALW, the local NPR affiliate?

San Francisco's public schools will loan public radio's KALW up to $200,000 to keep the struggling station financially afloat even as the district faces its own financial woes and major cutbacks.

The school board voted unanimously this week to provide an unprecedented line of credit to the 70-year-old station, which operates independently, but is technically owned by the district.

The station has been losing money for three years and now sits about $120,000 in the hole, said KALW general manager Matt Martin. Its annual budget is about $1.4 million, most of which is donated by listeners.

"We have not taken cash (from the district) for nearly 20 years," he said. "That's not what we want here. We want a loan we can pay back with interest."

The district gave the station 18 months to repay the loan's principal and about 1.5 percent in interest.

The back story is that the school district was the original owner of KALW, and still holds its broadcasting license. For those of you who think liberals are earnest college idealists who never grew up, learning that KALW still broadcasts from a local high school is worth a chuckle. In addition to the usual NPR stuff, KALW broadcasts the inevitable "quality" "local" programming that everyone swears they want to hear, but apparently not in great enough numbers to keep the station solvent. They also broadcast the school district board's monthly meetings, another thing that people say they want to hear, but no one actually listens to.

The obvious question is: why loan money to an obvious money loser when the broadcast license itself could be worth more than the pittance that KALW will be paying back to the district? And the answer is obvious: KALW and the district are ostensibly public institutions have are implacably left-wing. The progressives at KALW are as likely to find another ready platform for their programming as they are likely to start simulcasting WWF marathons. No doubt their allies and idealogical soulmates on the school board feel the same. They'll give up that license only when it's pried from their cold dead hands.

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