Monday, March 19 , 2018, 5:08 pm | Fair 63º


Local News

Santa Barbara Foundation Selling Ownership of Classical Radio Station KDB

KDB 93.7 FM in Santa Barbara is seeking a new owner to maintain the radio station’s classical music format and commitment to local arts.

So far, three strong bites from unnamed entities fitting that description have reached out to the Santa Barbara Foundation, which is working to relinquish ownership of the city’s oldest radio station after backing the channel through years of financial hardship and losses.

Foundation CEO Ron Gallo said while helping operate KDB the past decade has been an “absolute honor,” the job was not one the nonprofit considered in line with its overall task of providing grants to other nonprofits.

“Our first choice would be for some entity or group or individual to acquire it as is,” Gallo said, noting that the price tag would be cheaper that way than if the foundation is forced to sell the station to someone who doesn’t want to keep the classical format and local arts-infused flavor. “We hope it doesn’t come to that. The whole world of FM radio has changed so much with the explosion of other platforms. It wasn’t really a part of our core mission to run a radio station.”

The decision to shop around for a new owner came in September, when foundation board members voted unanimously to sell the struggling 87-year-old station, hopefully by the end of the year or early in 2014.

Making the station financially self-sufficient was the goal of a three-year strategic plan put in place in 2010 when KDB General Manager Tim Owens came aboard.

KDB ditched the pre-recorded model and hired some on-air personalities and a reporter to produce local arts features, as well as a general amp in advertising and donor efforts.

The station operated last year on a $900,000 budget, bringing in $435,000 in advertising and another $350,000 or so in donations, Gallo said, noting that the foundation has subsidized KDB close to $350,000 over the past four years.

Although advertising revenue and donations have gradually grown the last two years, the boost wasn’t enough to keep the station from running in the red by $80,000 in 2012, according to Owens.

Gallo and Owens said they’re pleased to see there’s interest in buying KDB, which the foundation purchased in 2003 through a donation.

Owens added that a growing number of donors — just five in 2009 to more than 700 in 2012 — also show the community’s commitment to arts, where the average donation in 2012 (without factoring in larger donations) was $96.

“That’s very reassuring,” Owens said. “There’s some good news in this. There is a donor base that is interested in this radio station.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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