KZSB News-Press Radio Heralds Return of Community News and Talk

Jul. 2–The Santa Barbara News-Press has hit the airwaves. Nostalgia radio station KZBN-AM 1290 officially became KZSB News-Press Radio on Friday, debuting a local news and talk format that has been absent from the area for nearly two years.

KZSB fills a void in the market for local news and community talk shows created when KEYT-AM 1250 was sold in October 2003 to Oxnard-based Lazer Broadcasting and became a Spanish-language music station.

News-Press Radio will feature more than 80 hours each week of locally produced news and live talk shows, according to KZSB General Manager Les Carroll.

“In this day and age, that is an ambitious task,” he said, adding that local TV stations produce about 50 hours a week of local programming.

An all-local news and talk format generally has been a money loser for commercial radio stations. KEYT 1250 struggled financially for five years before its owner, the late Bob Smith, decided to sell the station. At the time of the sale, Mr. Smith told the News-Press that the station lost $1 million since the year he purchased it in 1998. Those losses approach the $1.6 million he paid for the station.

“The only way that this format makes sense financially is to create a partnership with an existing news company,” Mr. Carroll said. Only about a dozen such partnerships between local newspapers and local radio stations currently exist in the United States, he said.

Most of the KZSB’s news content will come from stories found in the pages of the News-Press, and live local talk programming. Traffic reports from drivers of the Santa Barbara Airbus fleet and the Clean Air Express will provide updates from the road during the morning and evening rush hours.

Regular KZSB newscasters will include longtime radio personality “Baron” Ron Herron and radio veteran Bob Ducibella.

“The News-Press has the best and most in-depth local news report in Santa Barbara County,” said Jerry Roberts, editor and vice president of news. “We are delighted to enter this new partnership with KZSB, enabling us to carry our brand of community journalism to their listeners.”

World news will be provided throughout the day by satellite broadcasts from the British Broadcasting Corp. and CNN Radio News reports.

“We are one of the few commercial radio stations in the country that is carrying news programming from the BBC,” said Mr. Carroll. “National Public Radio stations have been licensed to carry BBC for a long time, but less than a handful of commercial stations are licensed to do this.”

Talk programs running during the week include “Our Town with Ed Giron,””Radio Real Estate,””The Third Age with Dr. Peter Brill,””The Golf Show,””The Chamber of Commerce Radio Show,””Around the World with Arthur & Barney,” (featuring News-Press restaurant critic Arthur von Wiesenberger and columnist Barney Brantingham), “The Grape Vine with Gabe Saglie” and “Garden Gossip.”

KZSB and KJEE-FM 92.9 are the only two independently owned and operated English-language stations on the South Coast that are not linked to a broadcasting giant.

Comedian Bob Newhart owned AM 1290 before selling the station last year to telecommunications executive Dennis Weibling of Seattle for $750,000. The sale of the station, officially owned by Mr. Weibling’s Santa Barbara Broadcasting Inc., was approved by the Federal Communications Commission last January.

Mr. Weibling is a friend of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw.

The News-Press operated a radio station — KTMS, named for T.M. Storke, then the paper’s owner and publisher — from 1937 to 1985.


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Copyright (c) 2005, Santa Barbara News-Press, Calif.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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