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Palomar, SDSU, City College – which one for future DJs?

KKSM wins awards, KPBS is bucks up, KSDS won't let students near the controls

Can the late Art Blakey keep KSDS afloat?
Can the late Art Blakey keep KSDS afloat?

Although KPBS-FM is officially non-profit, it took in over $26 million in donations in the 2019 fiscal year. KPBS-FM regularly finishes in the top three in the Nielsen ratings among all San Diego stations.

KKSM AM-1320 is on the other side of the non-profit radio spectrum. Its owner, Palomar College, gives the 500-watt station an annual budget of about $10,000. Yet it continues to win national awards and helps launch broadcast careers.

Zeb Navarro, right, after a recent live edition of "Not So Serious Radio."

So then what’s the point of KSDS 88.3 FM with studios on San Diego City College. Its 22,000-watt FM signal blankets San Diego County, super-serving the fans of straight-ahead jazz, blues, and big-band music. Bucking the national trend on commercial radio, all the KSDS DJ’s are live and local. On a recent show, nighttime DJ John Phillips imparted fun-fact jazz trivia – like how jazz drummer Art Blakey switched from keyboards to drums because a club owner forced him to give up his seat at the piano to Errol Garner at gunpoint.

The most recent KSDS ratings showed it had just a 0.4 market share (compared to KPBS-FM which regularly shows a 6.0 rating). Plus, the students of San Diego City College don’t get the on-air experience at KSDS they enjoy at Palomar’s KKSM.

The San Diego Community College District has been propping up KSDS with hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The station’s latest financial statement (through June 30, 2019) showed it keeps going deeper in debt. KSDS owed the district a total of $1,085,596 at the end of the 2019 fiscal year, up from $755,734 a year before.

“KSDS is financially dependent on the San Diego City College to support them,” is how the CPA firm Munger & Company summarized KSDS’s status. “Without the ongoing financial support from the District or College Foundation, KSDS would not be able to continue.”

KSDS employs six full-time and six part-time staffers. All the DJs with once-a-week specialty shows get paid. Both KSDS and the San Diego City College were not forthcoming about KSDS’s red ink status. KSDS general manager Ken Poston says he preferred not to comment. San Diego City College president Dr. Ricky Shabazz did not respond to a request for comment.

San Diego City College spokesperson Cesar Gumapas would not comment about KSDS’s annual need for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash infusion from the SDCC’s general fund other than to say that the rumor that the station may be for sale was not true.

One KSDS employee who did not want to be named says his station has reduced its budget “down to the bare bones…We don’t spend what isn’t absolutely necessary. We are in the process of creating a board that will run the station as a separate entity.” He says currently the KSDS operations are ultimately overseen by SDCC president Dr. Shabazz. “We want to create a new, separate foundation.”

The employee says that he has had to dispel rumors about KSDS. “I’ve had to tell people there is nothing in the works with the administration [to sell the station].”

About why San Diego City College does not allow its students to participate on the KSDS 88.3 airwaves, Gumapas responded: “This is a personnel matter and district policy restricts us from commenting on these type of matters.”

“We get former students from San Diego City College who came over to us when they found out they could not get on the air at KSDS,” says Zeb Navarro, KKSM general manager and Palomar College broadcast instructor. KKSM’s three broadcast towers in Oceanside were donated to Palomar College in 1996, which then allowed the Palomar campus station to get on the airwaves.

KKSM and Palomar College’s telecommunication program has seen a number of its graduates move on to careers in broadcasting including Greg Simms (KRTH, Los Angeles), sports journalist Jeanne Zelasko and Jesse Lozano (Star 94.1).

The current KKSM lineup is a hodge-podge of shows including sports talk show “The Spurge,” the all-reggae “Yard Sounds,” a talk and music “Club TuesGays,” an oldies show dedicated to “One Hit Wonders,” and a local music show called “Not So Serious Radio.”

Navarro says KKSM is where future broadcasters can get over their fear of live radio and learn the basics of broadcasting. “I tell the students this is where they can crash the car, and then crash the car again until they learn how to drive.”

Navarro learns this week if KKSM wins the award for Best College Station in the Nation by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. It is the only AM station nominated. The other six stations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Hartford, Connecticut are on the FM band. KKSM won the award in 2015 and 2017.

Navarro says he has 19 students connected with KKSM class and 44 students in his intro to broadcasting class. But isn’t radio broadcasting on the decline, especially considering all the recent layoffs? “I tell them it is getting very, very hard. That they should consider getting into management or considering doing other things like podcasting. I tell them not to expect to automatically expect to make six figures and that if you want to get into it, you really have to love it. But I think at some point broadcasting will swing back to local content.”

He says being on the AM band is actually kind of cool. "It's the new underground radio."

Navarro says that if sports station Xtra Sports 1360 moves over to 760 AM as is rumored, “I definitely see 1360 AM becoming a non-profit station. I hope it becomes a truly independent station and not have to be responsible to a corporation. I would love to consult it if they asked me.”

Unlike the Palomar College/KKSM model, San Diego State University telecommunication students who get accepted to the KPBS internship program do not get on-air access to KPBS-FM. But KPBS spokesperson Heather Milne Barger says the 50 students per semester who do get accepted, get hands-on experience at the KPBS radio and TV stations. “They get jobs in every single department from being embedded in the news department, to working behind the camera, to finance, to helping run station events.” Plus, she says all the SDSU interns get paid minimum wage during their KPBS internship.

KPBS bought KQVO-FM in El Centro for $1.1 million so that it could re-broadcast the KPBS radio signal to the Imperial Valley. Published reports said KPBS was once considering buying the station formerly known as KPRI, 102.1 FM about a decade ago. Presumably KPBS would then flip it to non-profit status and transmit classical or another style of music. Since the value of traditional terrestrial stations has significantly dropped, would KPBS now consider buying an FM for either an all-classical format or a modern music format similar to KEXP/Seattle or KCRW/Santa Monica?

“At this time we are not looking to acquire another station,” says KPBS spokesperson Barger.

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Can the late Art Blakey keep KSDS afloat?
Can the late Art Blakey keep KSDS afloat?

Although KPBS-FM is officially non-profit, it took in over $26 million in donations in the 2019 fiscal year. KPBS-FM regularly finishes in the top three in the Nielsen ratings among all San Diego stations.

KKSM AM-1320 is on the other side of the non-profit radio spectrum. Its owner, Palomar College, gives the 500-watt station an annual budget of about $10,000. Yet it continues to win national awards and helps launch broadcast careers.

Zeb Navarro, right, after a recent live edition of "Not So Serious Radio."

So then what’s the point of KSDS 88.3 FM with studios on San Diego City College. Its 22,000-watt FM signal blankets San Diego County, super-serving the fans of straight-ahead jazz, blues, and big-band music. Bucking the national trend on commercial radio, all the KSDS DJ’s are live and local. On a recent show, nighttime DJ John Phillips imparted fun-fact jazz trivia – like how jazz drummer Art Blakey switched from keyboards to drums because a club owner forced him to give up his seat at the piano to Errol Garner at gunpoint.

The most recent KSDS ratings showed it had just a 0.4 market share (compared to KPBS-FM which regularly shows a 6.0 rating). Plus, the students of San Diego City College don’t get the on-air experience at KSDS they enjoy at Palomar’s KKSM.

The San Diego Community College District has been propping up KSDS with hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The station’s latest financial statement (through June 30, 2019) showed it keeps going deeper in debt. KSDS owed the district a total of $1,085,596 at the end of the 2019 fiscal year, up from $755,734 a year before.

“KSDS is financially dependent on the San Diego City College to support them,” is how the CPA firm Munger & Company summarized KSDS’s status. “Without the ongoing financial support from the District or College Foundation, KSDS would not be able to continue.”

KSDS employs six full-time and six part-time staffers. All the DJs with once-a-week specialty shows get paid. Both KSDS and the San Diego City College were not forthcoming about KSDS’s red ink status. KSDS general manager Ken Poston says he preferred not to comment. San Diego City College president Dr. Ricky Shabazz did not respond to a request for comment.

San Diego City College spokesperson Cesar Gumapas would not comment about KSDS’s annual need for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash infusion from the SDCC’s general fund other than to say that the rumor that the station may be for sale was not true.

One KSDS employee who did not want to be named says his station has reduced its budget “down to the bare bones…We don’t spend what isn’t absolutely necessary. We are in the process of creating a board that will run the station as a separate entity.” He says currently the KSDS operations are ultimately overseen by SDCC president Dr. Shabazz. “We want to create a new, separate foundation.”

The employee says that he has had to dispel rumors about KSDS. “I’ve had to tell people there is nothing in the works with the administration [to sell the station].”

About why San Diego City College does not allow its students to participate on the KSDS 88.3 airwaves, Gumapas responded: “This is a personnel matter and district policy restricts us from commenting on these type of matters.”

“We get former students from San Diego City College who came over to us when they found out they could not get on the air at KSDS,” says Zeb Navarro, KKSM general manager and Palomar College broadcast instructor. KKSM’s three broadcast towers in Oceanside were donated to Palomar College in 1996, which then allowed the Palomar campus station to get on the airwaves.

KKSM and Palomar College’s telecommunication program has seen a number of its graduates move on to careers in broadcasting including Greg Simms (KRTH, Los Angeles), sports journalist Jeanne Zelasko and Jesse Lozano (Star 94.1).

The current KKSM lineup is a hodge-podge of shows including sports talk show “The Spurge,” the all-reggae “Yard Sounds,” a talk and music “Club TuesGays,” an oldies show dedicated to “One Hit Wonders,” and a local music show called “Not So Serious Radio.”

Navarro says KKSM is where future broadcasters can get over their fear of live radio and learn the basics of broadcasting. “I tell the students this is where they can crash the car, and then crash the car again until they learn how to drive.”

Navarro learns this week if KKSM wins the award for Best College Station in the Nation by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. It is the only AM station nominated. The other six stations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Hartford, Connecticut are on the FM band. KKSM won the award in 2015 and 2017.

Navarro says he has 19 students connected with KKSM class and 44 students in his intro to broadcasting class. But isn’t radio broadcasting on the decline, especially considering all the recent layoffs? “I tell them it is getting very, very hard. That they should consider getting into management or considering doing other things like podcasting. I tell them not to expect to automatically expect to make six figures and that if you want to get into it, you really have to love it. But I think at some point broadcasting will swing back to local content.”

He says being on the AM band is actually kind of cool. "It's the new underground radio."

Navarro says that if sports station Xtra Sports 1360 moves over to 760 AM as is rumored, “I definitely see 1360 AM becoming a non-profit station. I hope it becomes a truly independent station and not have to be responsible to a corporation. I would love to consult it if they asked me.”

Unlike the Palomar College/KKSM model, San Diego State University telecommunication students who get accepted to the KPBS internship program do not get on-air access to KPBS-FM. But KPBS spokesperson Heather Milne Barger says the 50 students per semester who do get accepted, get hands-on experience at the KPBS radio and TV stations. “They get jobs in every single department from being embedded in the news department, to working behind the camera, to finance, to helping run station events.” Plus, she says all the SDSU interns get paid minimum wage during their KPBS internship.

KPBS bought KQVO-FM in El Centro for $1.1 million so that it could re-broadcast the KPBS radio signal to the Imperial Valley. Published reports said KPBS was once considering buying the station formerly known as KPRI, 102.1 FM about a decade ago. Presumably KPBS would then flip it to non-profit status and transmit classical or another style of music. Since the value of traditional terrestrial stations has significantly dropped, would KPBS now consider buying an FM for either an all-classical format or a modern music format similar to KEXP/Seattle or KCRW/Santa Monica?

“At this time we are not looking to acquire another station,” says KPBS spokesperson Barger.

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Comments
30

"Where news matters" - KPBS' slogan. What do they do with that $26M? It gets you a one sentence weather report and an unintelligible high speed traffic report on the morning news. It gets you NPR, PBS, BBC and other outside content. It gets you publicity announcements from advertisers, donors and SDSU affiliates … (There's no way to know if they consider these to be 'news' or if they are paid to pretend they are news.)

Just don't expect local news. Don't expect the latest dirt on SDSU's Mission Valley acquisition. Don't expect to hear anything about the cost to ratepayers of the San Onofre cleanup. Don't expect a KPBS reporter to actually attend a city hall or Supervisor's meeting, much less a community planning or school board meeting. Don't look for a Matt Potter type report on misuse of campaign funds. Don't expect to hear anything bad about any donor (which includes most local developers, corporations, politicians, utilities, lobbyists, and major charitable organizations). Which means you will never get any local news that matters.

OTOH, KSDS is an award winning jazz & blues station. You can find 100,000 radio stations on the internet, but you'll never find a better jazz & blues station. Give generously.

March 3, 2020

Wanna bring back the time of Chuck Mangione? I still remember of the 1st cassette I had of him.

March 3, 2020

Second that on KSDS! What a treasure Jazz 88 is in San Diego and around the country. Support them in anyway you can!

March 3, 2020

The only cassettes I nowadays have -- as those used with bicycles.

March 12, 2020

Why/How expect "a Matt Potter type report" from KPBS? (no sic): before I opened up this KPBS report,I saw 1 of the tv news media stations showing that the amount of N-P voters been increasing; I only bring that coincidence in this chat for the reason that SDR is reputed by many as the most neutral media source in San Diego. But I did not expect in what I saw on the tv screen, to what I said above.

March 3, 2020

This article is confusing. Is it in favor of KSDS or not? Why would someone write negatively about a public radio station, particularly one of the last remaining full-time jazz stations left in the country. Also, my nephew does a radio show at City College. KSDS has a student station that can be heard online and on HD2. You can access the online part on the KSDS website or at http://sdsradio.org/ . And furthermore, KSDS just put the most recent brand new state-of-the-art equipment and software in the studios for students. They are very hands-on with the students on the HD/online side of things. KSDS employs professional knowledgeable jazz DJ’s who get paid through the college. It’s a particular format that requires that knowledge in order for them to raise money during membership drives, so just not any student can do it. That’s why they have a whole separate station (SDS Radio). Also, who is KSDO? KKSM isn’t an all jazz format that does major membership drives, so they can afford to have anybody just come in and do whatever type of show they would like. I’m no radio expert, but this is pretty common sense. This article has a number of misleading and untruthful stuff written in it. No wonder nobody pays much attention to the trash written in the Reader. Report on something worthwhile!

March 3, 2020

Is there a future for DJ's?

March 4, 2020

I remember when there was that time of Howard Stern's book being the new thing.

March 8, 2020

KSDS does have a student station, but it only goes on out on a HD2 channel which you need a special radio for. Those students may be getting experience but they don't get to get experience on the main station. That's why some students have moved to Palomar where they get experience on an actual broadcast station over traditional airwaves. Yes, KSDS provides a vital community cultural service. The question is, why should a community college district pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop it up? Why should it pay for those full time people while denying real education needs that aren't getting funded.

March 4, 2020

The college isn’t actually paying KSDS employees. KSDS is responsible for all finances. City College gives them a budget, and KSDS has to raise and pay that money back through their membership drives. That’s why they have two major membership drives every year, and that’s why they have underwriting supporters. That’s just how public radio works. You can’t raise that kind of money for public radio if you don’t have compelling programming the community is willing support with donations.

March 5, 2020

It should also be noted that KSDS was nominated for jazz station of the year awards in 2004, 2005, and 2008.

March 4, 2020

Why did you avoid KCR-AM at SDSU? Yes, they have a 100 milliwatt (1/100th of a watt) AM transmitter on 1610kHz, but they also are on area Cox cable and the all-important Internet streaming. Yes, their student management last year was utterly Mafia-like under Sumner Shorey and Brett Michaels (who graduated/vanished). But the students get an under-powered, under-amplified studio for $35 a semester. You need to get Matt Potter on this one.....

March 4, 2020

Strelnikov - Yes, there are stations like KCR that also exist at Grossmont and UCSD. I was focusing on stations with real, on-air broadcast capability, that are non-profit and college based. There are only three in San Diego County. KKSM's historical ability to produce ex-students who get jobs in the real broadcast world is remarkable. While KPBS does not not allow SDSU students to get on the air, their internship program has a huge educational component. I think the governing board of SDCC needs to explain how all this money from their general fund goes to pay for these full-time KSDS staffers which contributes nothing to the education and/or job preparation for area community college students. Yes, it is nice to have KSDS around, although there is nothing on KSDS you cant find on internet/satellite stations. It is absolutely amazing what KKSM's Zeb Navarro does with 500 AM watts and $10,000. a year as far helping students interface with the broadcasting world for the first time.

March 4, 2020

Again, I have to completely disagree with your comment about how you can get what KSDS offers on other internet/satellite stations. KSDS is always putting together special programming that you cannot get anywhere else. Such as a daily feature every day during Black History Month with rare broadcasts, Veterans Day special broadcasts, and currently right now they are celebrating Women’s History Month with a certain female artist being focused on each day of the month. Also, don’t forget what they do for the community. 12 Jazz Live concerts offered to the community at the Saville Theatre, concerts with the KSDS Jazz Orchestra which will be opening up the inaugural Jazz @ The Shell Series by the bay. And, the education stuff they do, such as their Music Matters program that takes in instrument donations and then KSDS distributes to local schools. And they support a number of non-profit educational programs such as Gilbert’s Young Lions Conservatory. This article does nothing but attack KSDS, and it’s a shame. At least the community knows what a gem KSDS is, and that’s why they’ll continue to support them.

March 5, 2020

Grossmont College didn't use to be just a streaming station. When they were KGCR and than KGFN we were on the actual radio at 89.1FM.

March 7, 2020

At one point it was a speaker on a wall, but that was the '90s.

March 16, 2020

Actually, there's an even better bet for students interested in broadcasting: KNSJ

http://knsj.org/ is a real radio station supported by donations and run by volunteers. Anyone, even a student, is welcome to help and even go on air if they have something worth airing.

The SJ stands for Social Justice, so it helps if you are a concerned citizen. They air shows that include music, East County News, tribal news, Mike Aguirre opinions, Democracy Now!, Thom Hartmann, etc. They are affiliated with Activist San Diego.

March 4, 2020

The $26-million KPBS figure cited in the article is for both KPBS broadcast entities...TV and radio.

March 4, 2020

dealwithit...Yes you may not hear a daily tribute to Women's History Month anywhere else. What I meant is that there are specialty channels that just focus on big band or straight-ahead jazz or blues on a 24/7 basis. The big question seems to be that as countless people are losing their jobs in commercial radio, why is the SD community college district draining its general fund to cover all these KSDS full-time and part-time employees year after year while it provides no direct on-air experience/education to SDCC students (on its main station).

March 5, 2020

I used to volunteer for this station when I lived in San Diego. I still stream them. But again, KSDS has to raise all that money themselves. KKSM actually gets $10,000 more than KSDS. There was an article not too long ago that explained how KSDS is independent from any other department in SDCCD schools. They don’t get one penny. They are expected to be financially independent. Every year they raise the money to pay for those full-time employees. And, I believe they are responsible for the day-to-day operational costs that come with operating a radio station. That’s even why they have end-of-the-year drives to make sure costs are being covered completely independent of the college.

March 5, 2020

dealwithit- please see CPA statement on the KSDS website under the "financials" pulldown. The fundraising does not cover the employees.

March 5, 2020

YOU, are focusing on the wrong thing. KSDS is a professional public radio station with professional hosts. It’s not a student station! SDS is their student station. The community gives this station money because of its professional programming. The college supports the station with giving them a budget every year. If the budget isn’t met, KSDS is expected to cover remaining costs the next fiscal year. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they did in past years thanks to new management and programming at the station. The college sees the importance of having KSDS because it’s one of the last few remaining full-time jazz stations left in the country. And, one that puts out unique programming and gives back to the community in many ways. It’s obvious you have something against KSDS, and fully support KKSM. You even put a KKSM photo at the top. Bias? I’ll just leave it here and continue to support KSDS with my yearly donation, and continue to listen to the professional jazz radio programming that KSDS offers, just as thousands of others do. #jazzradio

March 5, 2020

Also Mr. Leighton, as I sit here listening to Jazz 88, I’m just thinking of what the public response would be from thousands who donate to Jazz 88 if you put students on KSDS who no nothing about jazz or how to program it correctly. Go ahead and explain that one to them and everyone in the San Diego jazz community from the artists themselves to all the jazz educational programs throughout the county that supports KSDS.

March 5, 2020

dealwithit- I think everyone who listens to Jazz 88 (and even many who don't) would agree that the station is a wonderful cultural asset. But it is licensed to a college. SDCC owns KSDS. I found it odd that the president of SDCC did not want to comment about the issue that the district is bleeding cash to keep it afloat, to keep all these full-time people employed, while it does not provide the educational component that SDSU or Palomar do. People are getting fired right and left in the real radio world. But these 12 KSDS employees keep getting their paychecks while KSDS keeps slipping into debt, as its costs keep getting covered by the community college district. I get the impression that the KSDS crew understands this dole out business model cant go on forever. None of the KSDS jazz-heads want Jazz 88 to go away. But what if a different owner could operate it without costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as a KEXP-style or classical station. I guarantee that KCRW and KEXP respectively have huge followings and public support AND they can pay their own bills.

March 5, 2020
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March 7, 2020
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
March 7, 2020

THIS IS GOOD FOR ALL WHO PARTICIPATE, it show the love people have for radio in-spite of the differences of opinion, agreement and disagreement. What it comes down to is LET US ALL WHO INVOLVE do what we must to keep the programs to continue . I am very grateful for the opportunity to do the Reggae Show on KKSM , I do this show for a REASON , for MY CULTURE , TO GIVE VOICE TO MANY WHO cant afford to pay to send a message in there music ( positive message ) there is way too much CHICKENS , who get the chance to sit in chair of a BIRD and act like they are an eagle. Just remember chickens dont and cant fly yet they, the ones who sit in those chair will try to tell stories about navigation . and the furthest a bird can go is the height of a tree limb. www.yardsound.com

March 8, 2020

This just in....On Saturday KKSM won big at the 2020 Intercollegiate Broadcasting System awards haded out in New York City. KKSM won BEST COMMUNITY COLLEGE RADIO STATION in the nation. Dan Sweeney's "One Hit Wonders" won for Best Community Volunteer Program, Ceili Orr won for Best Commercial, Hailey Wild won for Best Promotional Event, Mikayla Barrett (“Magical Mornings with Mikayla”) was a finalist for Best Specialty Music Show, Jordan Spurgeon was a finalist for Best Sports Talk Show, and KKSM was also a finalist for Best On-Air Pledge Drive.

March 8, 2020

Not a single link in this story? Where are these stations?

March 9, 2020

Swell....the stations are kksm am-1320.....KSDS 88.3 fm and kpbs 89.5 fm.....they are broadcast over the airwaves. To listen to them online just Google their call letters. Or....what stations did you mean?

March 9, 2020

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