KCSB-FM Marks 60 Years of ‘People Powered’ Community Radio

Celebrations include a Programmer Reunion and Annual Fund Drive


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(Santa Barbara, CA) —  KCSB-FM 91.9 Santa Barbara, the student-led community radio station located on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, is celebrating its 60th year on the air. Events are being planned to mark the occasion, including an annual fund drive, from February 9-18, and a KCSB programmer reunion in late April.

Credit: Courtesy

KCSB FM is the oldest of all the University of California radio stations. Founder Bill Harrision, then a student at UC Santa Barbara, launched KCSB in his dorm room in 1962. Over the years, the station migrated from closed circuit to FM and increased its signal strength. Today its signal on 91.9 FM covers most of Santa Barbara County and portions of Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties. Most of KCSB’s on-air hosts (programmers) are UCSB students, faculty, and staff, but other volunteers from our community too, who have been trained by KCSB how to produce a radio show and broadcast live. Some of KCSB’s programs have been on the air for years and have developed a sizable following of loyal listeners.

For the past several decades, KCSB’s studios have been located at the base of Storke Tower, the tallest building on the UCSB campus. KCSB-FM has a storied history, and reputation for keeping the Santa Barbara community informed — from the 1970s student demonstrations culminating in the Bank of America burning in Isla Vista, to providing daily COVID-19 news updates and an email newsletter early into the pandemic. Through the COVID newsletter, delivered to 28,000 UCSB undergraduate students, KCSB formed a direct bond and connection with the greater student community, who during remote instruction learned that the on-campus radio station had over the years become a true multimedia institution. In addition to providing commercial-free news, public affairs, and music programming, KCSB serves as a training ground for the next generation of civic leaders. 

“I never would have imagined that KCSB would have evolved into what it is today,” said station founder Bill Harrision, who recently dropped-in to a KCSB news journalism reporter workshop on Zoom. He marveled that the station he founded in a dorm room six decades ago now has a news department, and conducts training sessions for the next generation of broadcast journalists.

KCSB FM student leadership: (l-r) Diana Escamilla, program director; Zena Omar, general manager; Al Simpkins assistant program director | Credit: Courtesy

On Wednesday, February 9th, KCSB FM 91.9 kicked off its annual fund drive. During the ten day event, listeners are encouraged to pledge their support for the unique hybrid of community and college radio station. Listeners can donate online at kcsb.org/donate. During some shows, listeners will be able to call-in to make a donation, however phone bank volunteers will be limited this year due to pandemic protocols. As is tradition, donors will have the opportunity to select a thank you gift, including an array of KCSB-branded merchandise such as T-shirts, ball caps and coffee mugs.  

“The theme of the Fund Drive is Soup,” explained Zena Omar, KCSB’s general manager.  “I like to think of KCSB as one big, warm, melting pot with regards to both our rich content and unique community. We wanted to call back to Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup can painting from 1962 — the same year that KCSB was founded sixty years ago.” Omar leads a group of 18 students who comprise KCSB’s executive committee. Each ExComm member holds a part-time paid position such as program director, production coordinator, news director, promotions and assistant engineer. Fund drive runs through Friday, February 18th. 

In late April, KCSB FM is hosting a programmer reunion reception outside its broadcast studios in the Storke Courtyard. Everyone who has had a show or been involved with KCSB over the past six decades is invited to attend the event, which will coincide with the UCSB All Gaucho Reunion. Details will be announced soon to KCSB email newsletter subscribers. To sign up for the KCSB newsletter, go to kcsb.org.

KCSB FM offers an eclectic mix of music that is not heard anywhere else on the radio dial, public affairs shows and news programs, most of which originate in the KCSB studios located beneath Storke Tower at UCSB.  For more information go to kcsb.org

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