Upon approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), commercial classical music station KDB in Santa Barbara, Calif., will be operated by Classical KUSC, a nonprofit public station, it was announced by Brenda Barnes, president of USC Radio.
KDB, operating at 93.7 FM, dates to the late 1920s and is owned by the Santa Barbara Foundation. Several months ago, the foundation announced it would sell the station, but stipulated that it must continue to operate with a classical format.
Public radio station KCRW, based in Santa Monica, approached Classical KUSC and suggested that KCRW buy the Santa Barbara station and then swap it for KQSC (88.7 FM), the station that Classical KUSC currently operates in Santa Barbara. Classical KUSC agreed to the swap, which allows KDB to continue playing classical music and expands KCRW’s signal to Santa Barbara.
KDB and KQSC have virtually the same coverage area. No money will change hands between KCRW and Classical KUSC.
The KDB call letters will remain, as will its 93.7 FM frequency, but USC branding will be given at the top of each hour, as is done on all the KUSC stations, which are located in Los Angeles and Santa Clarita (KUSC), Palm Springs (KPSC), Thousand Oaks (KDSC), Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo (KESC), as well as KQSC in Santa Barbara.
In a letter to Classical KUSC members, Barnes said the Santa Barbara Foundation has been subsidizing KDB operations for several years and could not justify continuing to do so.
“This is not their fault,” she wrote. “Classical music just does not work as a commercial radio format anymore even in a place as unique and special as Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, in fact, is the last city in the country with two full-time classical stations.”
Barnes said that arts programming in Santa Barbara will be expanded under the new management and that KDB will continue broadcasting concerts of the Santa Barbara Symphony and The Music Academy of the West.
“We hope to expand the roster of concert broadcasts by raising funding dedicated to coverage of the arts in Santa Barbara,” Barnes wrote.
FCC approval is likely to take two to three months. During this time, Barnes and Classical KUSC Executive Producer Gail Eichenthal will be meeting with Santa Barbara-area arts organizations and begin developing an advisory board to guide its efforts and ensure that the station continues its strong ties to the community.
USC Radio also operates Classical KDFC, a second nonprofit, listener-supported classical music station in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two stations provide classical coverage for nearly all the state. In the rest of the state and around the world, the stations can be heard online at kusc.org and kdfc.com.