On the Air: Not your everyday idea of a broadcast attorney, only he helped save KVMR ‘back in the day’ | TheUnion.com

On the Air: Not your everyday idea of a broadcast attorney, only he helped save KVMR ‘back in the day’

Steve Baker
Special to Prospector

Communications attorney Michael Couzens looked across the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ parking lot during a recent Strawberry Music Festival with a sense of pride.

“Look at all these bumper stickers,” he said with a smile. “That’s an incredible number of community radio bumper stickers in one parking lot.”

You could tell it really made a difference to Couzens to see the array of stations represented. KVMR from Nevada City, of course. But KPFA in Berkeley. And KZFR in Chico. West Marin’s KWMR, Mendocino’s KZYX … other stickers from independent community stations all over the state … and then there was that one from Moab, Utah.

A lover of the annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, during which he and award-winning independent radio producer Adi Givens were married over a quarter century ago, Couzens has walked the walk and talked the talk in defense of independent media.

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He’s spent a good portion of a lifetime defending and protecting community radio stations like KVMR, which simply may have gone under if legal advocates like Couzens didn’t exist.

In fact, Couzens was instrumental in helping KVMR move to a new nonprofit owner and convince the FCC to allow transfer of the license back in the ‘80s.

Okay, that was back in the mid ‘80s, but…

“Getting the station out of the clutches of its former owners and out of the problems the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) felt they’d found was one of the best things I’ve ever done in radio,” admits Couzens, with one of his honest-feeling smiles.

Whew. Ever done in radio, he says. And for KVMR?

Says Couzens “I helped get it organized, wrote the purchase agreement … even if the books (at the time) didn’t add up.”

Maybe you now realize how important this guy is in the overall history of the Nevada City radio station.

Yet Couzens admits he’s helped at least 25 community radio stations like KVMR over the years, and that figure is probably low.

He’s a former FCC staff member who was supposed to analyze what syndicate corporate programming was doing in early evening television hours, which wasn’t his thing, and he ended up developing many of the rules for low power, community-oriented television instead.

Around then he met Adi Gevins, a Pacifica Radio independent producer, the two fell in love and moved to Oakland in 1982.

She wanted out of Washington at the time, Michael followed and put out his shingle as a communications lawyer, only to find out there were few clients and fewer broadcast lawyers on the so-called “left coast” when all the action was back in “D.C.”

For her wide variety of instruction and programming projects, Gevins became known as “the fairy godmother of community radio,” a beloved term that simply captures her spunk, spirit and devotion.

Don’t worry. Michael created plenty of action out here, too, including KVMR.

No, you won’t find him in suit-and-tie, except when it works for him professionally, because, well, he represents a decidedly non-suit-and-tie world. Like the kind of folks you’d find at the Strawberry festival and at the Father’s Day Weekend Bluegrass extravaganza, two of his favorite places to relax.

“If you read the blogs and trades, they say broadcast radio is stone cold dead, no radio audience whatsoever,” says Couzens. “But everything I see shows community radio is loved and essential, that people want it and will go find it. It’s that important, no matter what they say…”


There’s life that includes local radio?

This guy Couzens may be on to something.

For decades, well, he always has been.

On The Air is a weekly look at Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org A second stream features indie pop and a younger sound at kvmrx.org and the station now has a second over-the-air signal at 105.7 FM for NPR and Pacifica programming by day and KVMRx by night and weekend afternoons. Further information is at kvmr.org and kvmrx.org

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