May 30, 2023
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KCRW enters Santa Barbara market with KDB buy


Santa Monica-based National Public Radio affiliate KCRW has acquired Santa Barbara-based station KDB, intensifying the battle for public radio listeners and donors in the Tri-Counties.

The Santa Barbara Foundation said last fall that it intended to sell KDB, a classical music station that is Santa Barbara’s oldest but that has struggled financially in recent years. KCRW said that KUSC, a classical station currently broadcasting at 88.7 FM in Santa Barbara, will move up the dial to take KDB’s old spot at 93.7 FM.

KCRW, whose existing signals are faint Santa Barbara but can be heard clearly in much of Ventura County, will take over broadcasting at 88.7 FM. In addition to its national NPR content, the station said that it inked a partnership with Antioch University to house a studio. The Santa Monica station said it will hire two Santa Barbara producers and partner with the Santa Barbara Independent, the city’s alternative weekly newspaper, and Mission and State, a nonprofit investigative journalism publication, to produce Santa Barbara-specific news programming.

In a release, Jennifer Ferro, president and general manager of KCRW, said Santa Barbara “has all the elements that have made KCRW a success in Los Angeles — a diverse and intelligent population interested in arts and culture who are passionate about their local community. We believe we can further amplify the voices of Santa Barbara in a unique and compelling way.”

The KCRW move into Santa Barbara comes amid an intense battle for the ears — and, critically, wallets — of public radio listeners, who make up a large part of station budgets with their donations.

Thousand Oaks-based KCLU expanded from its Ventura County base in the late 1990s into Santa Barbara and moved up the coast to Santa Maria late last year. That brought KCLU into competition for listeners with San Luis Obispo-based KCBX, which can be heard from Salinas to Santa Barbara. KCBX switched toward more news programming when KUSC brought a repeater to San Luis Obispo and began to pick off classical listeners.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: The Business Times provides news and commentary for a daily business news segment for KCLU but does not have a financial relationship with the station.]