L.A.'s Triple A Station KCSN Massively Expands Reach, Partnering With KSBR: Exclusive

KCSN 88.5
Courtesy Photo


The New 88.5's audience reach will expand from 3 million to 11.5 million and claims to be the 'largest coverage area expansion in public radio history.'

KCSN, the eclectic Triple A formatted non-commercial radio station based of out of Los Angeles’ Cal State Northridge, is massively expanding its broadcast reach to a nearly four-fold coverage area that starting Sept. 12 will increase its potential listeners from 3 million to a whopping 11.5 million, Billboard has exclusively learned.

"The New 88.5," as the station will be branded, is a result of a broadcast agreement between KCSN and KSBR-FM out of Mission Viejo’s Saddleback College. The broadcast signal will originate from both stations' campus studios as well as a remote studio at The Village at Westfield Topanga.

The new entity claims to be "the largest coverage area expansion in public radio history" and will extend the station's reach from Santa Clarita in the north to San Clemente in the South and along the way hit the Valley, the LA Basin, Anaheim, Long Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine. The service area will also reach into parts of Ventura County.

“We’ve been saying that one plus one equals eleven,“ says KSCN’s ebullient GM and PD, Sky Daniels who for the past four years has led the charge to combine the two non-commercial stations. “We were literally the lowest powered FM station in L.A.,” he says. “I realized we didn’t have enough scale in terms of the signal imprint to compete in what is a very competitive market.”

Daniels says him and his team of engineering experts were careful to adhere to the FCC policies on shared programming agreements, something he believes there will be more of in the future. The shared programming agreement didn't increase either of the stations' signals but new technologies enabled the coverage area to expand.

Daniels, along with KSBR's director of Broadcast Operations Jim Rondeau, will serve as co-general managers of the New 88.5 while Daniels was also named program director.

None of this will change KCSN’s format, but KSBR, which was primarily a smooth jazz station, will change over to the adult album alternative format. The new 88.5 will continue KCSN's weekday programming with on-air DJs  Nic Harcourt, Jim Nelson and Daniels along with KSBR’s Garrison West who will now have a regular weekday slot. The station will continue to program NPR’s syndicated "World Cafe" as well as shows with DJs Julie Slater, Harry Shearer, Robert Hilburn, Jed The Fish and Kevin Bronson. The station's "Dylan Hour," "Acoustic Cafe" and Les Perry’s beloved “Saturday With The Beatles" will also continue.

“How could we lose the Beatles show when both Ringo and Paul McCartney donate to our station,” Daniels asked rhetorically. “When the two Beatles individually proclaim how much they love this station it validates what you’re doing a s a programmer.”

In addition to the synchronized signal broadcast, The New 88.5 will allocate its HD 2 signal to smooth jazz and its HD3 signal to the Latin alternative format and will stream online at

When asked how the New KSCN will compete with some of L.A's  more established stations, including popular NPR affiliate KCRW and iconic commercial starion KROQ, Daniels is confident in his station’s programming. “There’s a reason why we’ve taken the tact we have as a Triple A station,” he says, “it's because this is a format in Los Angeles that has not been served."

Daniels also cites an Edison Media survey commissioned for L.A. and Orange Counties which reported that 48% of respondents felt “radio wasn’t as good as it used to be or  didn't speak to them like it used to.”

After name-checking a number of iconic independent-minded stations including WHFS, WXRT, 91X and WBCN among others, Daniels says he is particularly aware of the 35+ listeners who once had a more “deep, robust and inclusive” experience with radio which he says goes back free form and progressive days. He notes that as radio has undergone consolidation and playlists have become homogenized, many music fans have become alienated or simply stopped listening.

Daniels takes great pride in his station’s mission to support both up-and-coming artists and legacy musicians, both of whom he says can find it difficult to get terrestrial radio airplay. “We are dedicated to building a radio station that actively supports artists,” he says. “Coming from label side, the radio side and the retail side, I know just how difficult it is for artists—and not just for developing artists—but for a lot of the artists at the mid-level and at the back end of their careers; that’s really what’s been driving us.”

The station also plans to have greater community outreach and street presence. Towards that goal, the station has hired Bonnie Marquez as director of promotions and partnerships. Marquez was formerly head of festival marketing for L.A. based promoter Goldenvoice.

As part of its expansion, The New 88.5 will host a benefit concert with Sheryl Crow at L.A.'s Fonda Theatre on Oct. 23. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Stomp Out, an anti-bullying organization.

"There’s something magical on the dial at 88.5 FM," Crow, a longtime fan of the station, exclusively told Billboard. "The station’s passionate dedication to supporting artists, providing them a home on the airwaves and introducing listeners to the best of new local talent, is unmatched. It’s wonderful that listeners all over Southern California will now have a chance to hear what they’re doing.”

In the past KCSN has received enormous support from the music community with such luminaries as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Conor Oberst, Ryan Adams and many others joining the station for special performances and benefits.

Daniels also credited a number of other officials who were integral to the New 88.5's development, including: CSUN president Dianne F. Harrison; Debra Fitzsimons, the interim chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District; Robert Gunsalus, CSUN’s VP  for University Advancement; Saddleback College past president Dr. Tod Burnett; former SOCCCD vice chancellor CM Brahmbhatt; former KSBR GM Terry Wedel; Former dean of Fine Arts and Media Technology Bart McHenry' and KSBR-FM's Rondeau.

While surveying a map of The New KCSN's broadcast range (see above), Daniels reveals exactly how much of an undertaking this massive change has been. "What you’re looking at is the medical examiners chalk outline of Sky passing out behind some rock club from exhaustion," he says, "and the little thing to the left is his soul in the shape of a dove flying up to heaven."

Tickets for the Sheryl Crow’s station benefit are on sale Friday 9/8 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased here.