KUSC acquires Santa Barbara radio station


On Wednesday, it was announced that Classical KUSC will soon be operating Santa Barbara’s classical music station KDB, pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

USC Radio President Brenda Barnes announced the new venture. With the acquisition, classical KUSC will become the only classical station in Santa Barbara, Calif.

KUSC’s operation of KDB solidifies the transition that KUSC has been undergoing for the last 10 years. KUSC has become the only classical service in all of Southern California as well as in the Bay Area.

KDB, the commercial classical music station owned by the Santa Barbara Foundation, has been around since the late 1920s. It was announced several months ago that the KDB station would be sold. In the announcement, the Santa Barbara Foundation stated that the KDB must continue to run as a classical station.

Classical KUSC, a nonprofit public station, already operates a radio station in Santa Barbara, KQSC.

Barnes noted in a press release that the Santa Barbara Foundation could no longer fund the KDB station.

“This is not their fault,” she said. “Classical music just does not work as a commercial radio format anymore, even in a place as unique and special as Santa Barbara.”

The real difference between a commercial radio format and a nonprofit radio format is selling commercials, Barnes said.

“The audience for classical music on the radio is more like 50 [years-old] plus,” she said. “And most advertisers are looking for 18 [year-olds] to 24 [years-olds]. So, we [as a nonprofit radio station] do not [have] the audience that is the ideal target for most advertisers.”

Barnes added, however, that the model can survive through donations.

“If your model is asking people to donate for the service, people who are 50 [years-old] and older, generally, especially classical music listeners who are educated, have disposable income that they are able to donate,” Barnes said. “That business plan and structure works a lot better than trying to sell ads.”

KDB was known as the local classical music station and was the station to broadcast the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Music Academy of the West. KUSC will now take over this coverage.

The letters KDB and the frequency 93.7 FM will remain the same as Classical KUSC takes over. KDB, however, will now have USC advertising at the top of each hour, something all other KUSC radio stations have.

Barnes noted the station should receive an announcement regarding the FCC’s decision in a couple months.

“We figure sometime in May is a reasonable estimate,” Barnes said. “It could be longer or it could be shorter, but that is about the amount of time it takes the FCC to look at a transaction like this.”

Update: In an earlier version of this article, the Daily Trojan wrote that KUSC purchased KDB. KUSC will operate KDB, but did not purchase it as money was not exchanged. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.

  • Allison Engel

    This headline and article are incorrect in writing that KUSC purchased Santa Barbara station KDB, as no money changed hands. Los Angeles radio station KCRW bought KDB and then swapped it for the classical music station that KUSC already owned in Santa Barbara. This will allow KDB to continue as a classical station — but one now operated by KUSC. (KCRW will expand its station’s coverage to Santa Barbara, using the frequency of the station that KUSC owned before the swap.) Also, the station in San Francisco is KDFC, not KUSC. Both are owned by USC Radio.