The age of consolidating corporate media hasn’t been easy on community radio. After KUSP went bankrupt in 2016, the religious broadcast chain K-LOVE swooped on the station’s 88.9 FM frequency and began playing contemporary Christian music. KAZU 90.3, which began as a community radio station, is now owned by CSU Monterey Bay and broadcasts primarily NPR content (plus some global news shows like the BBC World Service).
“It kind of eradicated a community station that was accessible to the community,” says David Bean, host and board member of the Santa Cruz-based community radio station KSQD.
In 2019, a group of local radio “refugees” banded together to create a new station that would reflect the community it exists in, with local news, traffic and weather, plus music and talk shows hosted by locals. The group acquired 90.7 FM in Santa Cruz and began broadcasting KSQD (K-Squid).
From the beginning, KSQD was looking to expand. As irony would have it, K-LOVE owner Educational Media Foundation, which had gone on a bit of a shopping spree, was ready to part with 89.7 FM and 89.5 FM.
Nonprofit Natural Bridges Media, which runs KSQD, began fundraising and by February had raised the necessary $400,000 to purchase the frequencies, pay licensing fees, rent broadcasting towers, etc. Altogether, the three frequencies will allow KSQD to expand beyond Santa Cruz to Prunedale and Watsonville, as well as Salinas, Seaside, Monterey and Carmel in Monterey County.
“I think it’s reflective of the desire of communities to have their own media in a very nationalized environment,” KSQD chair Rachel Goodman says of the support the station received.
KSQD’s programming includes some nationally syndicated shows like Democracy Now! and The Kitchen Sisters, as well as re-broadcasts of other station’s shows like KALW’s Your Call. The rest of the mix is locally hosted and produced on a volunteer basis – ranging from local news on Talk of the Bay to music like Bean’s New Squid in Town (which focuses on playing music by local bands and bands passing through the Central Coast on any given week). KSQD runs on the work of 130 volunteers (many of whom appear on the air), plus two half-time staff members.
The station’s expansion into Monterey County will mean more Monterey County voices on the air – both as guests on existing shows and, down the road, as hosts of new shows. (If you would like to host your own community radio show, there’s an application available at ksqd.org.)