Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #59

Malibu is about to get its own radio station.
Hans Laetz announced that construction will begin soon for the transmitter system that will broadcast KBUU (97.5 FM), a brand-new low-power FM designed to cover Malibu with a city-grade signal and coverage extending from the tunnel off the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica all the way to the Ventura County Line. All that with about 100 watts of effective radiated power.
The plan is to become an affiliate of National Public Radio. Yes, I thought the same thing: do we really need another NPR station when Southern California already has about 400 such affiliates? Laetz explains it this way: 
“Malibu is arguably the only municipality in all of California without reliable NPR coverage. The mountains block KCRW and KPCC and we are getting a lot of requests from Malibu people for ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered.’” He says the current affiliates have been supportive, but he has not heard anything yet from NPR itself.
The good thing is that Laetz isn’t planning NPR all day. Frankly, it would defeat the purpose of low-power community radio to have a national programming service. Northing against NPR itself, but my main complaint of current college-owned stations is that they are almost all professionally-run and staffed stations -- with no students involved other than as peons -- and thus are not following the terms and requirements of their educational licenses. But I digress.
Laetz appeases me when he continues. “We have some very exciting ideas for 9a-5p and after 7. We are going to let community members program their shows. Daytimes, overnights and weekends will be modern rock with a coastal twist. A little Hawaiian slack key and Texas roadhouse rock thrown in.
When will it happen? 
“Quite literally, the engineer and I are going to go up the hill with shovels to dig the hole for the 97.5 tower foundation next week,” Laetz said. “We've ordered and paid for the antenna and transmitter. We could ... emphasis could ... be on the air for testing and calibration around December 10. We are awaiting fiber lines to be trenched up the hill by the phone company and can't really go on the air 24/7  until that happens (although we could park a laptop up there and read the meters via cellphone email).
“I am telling my board of directors I plan ... emphasis on PLAN ... to do a soft rollout on Jan. 5 or so ... This is going to be fun.” 
It certainly will. More on this as it develops.
KLOS Property Sold
Not the station, just the property. The land that houses the studios of KLOS (95.5 FM) as well as the studios and transmitter of KABC (790 AM) is in the process of being sold, according to industry reports. A contract to sell the 10 acre parcel -- located in Baldwin Hills -- for about $125 million has been signed and will take 12-18 months to close.
What will happen to the land is unknown. Right now reports are that Cumulus will lease it back, but longterm the land would have to be developed to bring in that kind of cash. And if it is developed, you can kiss goodbye any chance of KABC being heard from that location ... engineers I spoke with explained that any building on the land will destroy the AM ground system buried there, rendering the KABC signal essentially worthless.
So when it comes down to it, Cumulus seems to have decided that the land underneath KABC is worth more than the station itself. Regardless, the sale will help Cumulus pay off some of its staggering debt, estimated right now at $2.5 billion.

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