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College Stations, Others Bring Mix to Broadcasting

Located within a dormitory building at California State University Northridge is the voice of the university. From the offices of radio station KCSN comes programming where Gregorian chants play alongside Mozart, the blues, classic country and The Beatles. It is stations like KCSN and KCLU in Thousand Oaks and other smaller broadcasting outlets, some heard only online, that represent the non-corporate world of radio in the San Fernando, Conejo and Santa Clarita valleys. These stations don’t get the big ratings or the huge advertising revenues of the powerhouse stations owned by Clear Channel, Univision, Emmis Communications and Liberman Communications in Glendale and Burbank. What they embrace instead is independence, a greater freedom to play what they want without worrying on how it may affect the bottom line. “I’m not here to listen to an accountant,” said KCSN program director Martin Perlich, sitting in his office practically overflowing with compact discs on the desk and bookshelves. Small as they are, these stations are professionally run and take seriously a mission to expose music and information that might otherwise only be heard in the privacy of a home or a car. The hosts at local programming from KCSN and KCLU located at California Lutheran University prepare for hours before stepping before a microphone. As general manager at KCLU for almost a dozen years, Mary Olson knows that coming up with a programming topics is not difficult for the first half dozen shows at least. It’s the 20th show or the 50th show or the 100th show that presents the challenge. “After the newness wears out it still needs to be interesting and dynamic,” Olson said. Though located at universities, KCLU and KCSN employ full-time staff members and don’t consider themselves to be teaching facilities. CLU students intern at their campus station but don’t host any programs. CSUN students are on-air but generally in the overnight shift so any mistakes reach fewer ears. News programming at KCLU has won awards from the Associated Press and the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California. CSUN journalism students report, produce and anchor their station’s morning and evening news programs, which have brought them 400 awards in national, state and regional competitions over 20 years. Funding for both stations comes from listeners and sponsors, releasing them from having to develop a business plan like those broadcasting over the Internet. It’s about the bandwidth The Internet makes its impact felt on radio as it has on other forms of media. The term “terrestrial radio” gained popularity to distinguish traditional broadcasters using an antennae signal from the online streaming of Internet broadcasters, as well as satellite radio. Commercial stations routinely stream their content online, while those who are Internet only make their programs available either independently by securing bandwidth on their own or through an aggregator or network like Live365 or Pandora. In the 10 years since Webcasts have used software developed to measure listener numbers through IP addresses, types of media players used, and the operating system; trade organizations such as the International Webcasting Association formed. For terrestrial radio the fastest growing advertising segment comes from non-traditional revenue, said Dave Newmark, president of Bid4Spots, an Encino-based online auction site of radio advertising time. “That is reflective of stations leveraging their brand off air and on the Internet and advertisers can reach people that way,” Newmark said. In the Valley, the Broadband Comedy Network operates out of Sherman Oaks, a collection of nine online music stations broadcast from a home in Tarzana, and Planet Pootwaddle originates from a converted stable in Burbank. Taking advantage of the anything goes nature of the Internet, even the adult entertainment industry has its own radio outlet in KSEX, which made a move earlier this year to Chatsworth from Burbank. The Broadband Comedy Network started as a hobby for its president Eric Bergez and he still considers it to be just that. What Bergez has found is that as compared to terrestrial radio where the investment is high to get started in Internet broadcasting the cost goes up the more popular a station becomes because additional bandwidth is needed. “You start out small and as you grow it becomes more expensive and then you have to advertise or generate some kind of revenue to pay for those expenses,” Bergez said. With an audience base listening from outside California, pursuing local advertisers makes no sense. Even if there are an impressive number of listeners to his channels, big national advertisers are interested in buying time, Bergez said. So what he turns instead to online advertising pushing a listener from his website to other websites. 1-800-Flowers and Proflowers.com have been site advertisers. “Every little bit that we get helps to pay and get us to break even,” Bergez said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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