Radio Waves: 9/15/17

KCSN Expands reach … with students?

I should be excited.

What many consider one of the best radio stations in Southern California increased its coverage from a potential audience of 3 million to a whopping 11.5 million, through what is being called a merger of KCSN, which broadcasts from the campus of Cal State Northridge in the valley, and KSBR, from the campus of Saddleback College down South, both using the 88.5 FM frequency.

Considering how good KCSN is, I really should be excited. But I am not … instead I am conflicted.

Don’t get me wrong. I give props to programmer/manager Sky Daniels for putting together one of the best AAA (Adult Album Alternative) stations — OK the only one but you get the idea — in Southern California. Musically, it is vastly more interesting than many other stations in town.

But the merger does nothing but remind me of my pet peeve of these supposed college radio stations: they have nothing to do with the colleges they serve.

These educational licenses are supposed to be for the benefit of students. Either in programming that expands student learning opportunities, or as student broadcasting laboratories where students do the work, on the air and off. There is nothing in an educational license that allows them do what they are doing: commercial broadcasts using professional staffs. In other words, if the FCC actually held them to their licenses, they would lose them. 

I suppose one could argue that in this case it doesn’t matter much. Neither station used students pre-merger, the KSBR smooth jazz format will still be available on-line and via HD Radio. And KCSN really is great. 

But former KCSN general manager Douglas Brown, who later went on to a long career in radio and production in part due to his experience at the station, explains it this way, in a letter printed at LARadio.Com:

“I find it really sad to see both KCSN and KSBR are no longer primarily student operated providing young people with a starting place in broadcasting.

“In fact, I don’t get why the colleges are even holding these non-commercial licenses which are now run primarily by former commercial music radio people.

“In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the staff of KEDC/KCSN was well more than 100 students performing virtually every function: writing, performing, production, engineering, continuity, music programming, news, public affairs, publicity, etc. It was a great place to start for many of us.

“And BTW, the KCSN call sign was my idea (in January ’73) to coincide with the university name change from San Fernando Valley State College to CSUN.”

It just seems wrong that students are not involved, since that is the sole reason the educational broadcast license exists. I’m calling on Daniels — and operators of all other pseudo college stations — to correct this error. Maybe if only like KKJZ (88.1 FM), which offers student-run K-Beach on one of its digital HD streams. That’s not much to ask.


Mo’ Kelly had a very fitting program last Sunday on KFI (640 AM). His guest was Josephine Bias Robinson, former White House Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff under President George W. Bush. Robinson was in the White House as the 9/11 attacks began, and she gave her personal stories and memories of the day as it began, and the actions of her colleagues as the event unfolded. Included were recordings of news reports from the day.

Overall, typical Mo Kelly. Insightful, entertaining, and unfortunately too short. Hear it for yourself on the podcast page of; hear Mo’ Kelly every Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m.