For all of the industries that have experienced contraction since the dawn of Covid-19 in 2020, one local business is seeing expansion in its very near future: KBCZ radio.
Centered in Boulder Creek, the station is growing into new territory. Within the next few weeks, listeners of the homespun station will be able to hear their favorite music and local news in Felton, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz. Station Manager Tina Davey said she is tickled pink and ready for the challenge of expanded coverage and a changed location on the FM dial.
“The desire to reach all of SLV has always been the goal for us, really from the get-go. Almost immediately, people were asking us when we would reach Felton, and we just had to sit tight and wait and plot,” she said.
Davey said the station saved money for a new antenna and transmitter, which will be stationed atop one of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District’s (SLVWD) water tank sites.
“With the help of Paul Nanna, our technical director, and JV Rudnick, our engineer specialist, that installation will allow us to blanket the valley with our signal as our new license intends,” she added.
Davey says that setting up a radio station is more than just getting an FCC license and a microphone. Having broadcast from 90.1FM for years, she said she is keenly aware of what it takes to succeed in the industry. The new 89.3FM frequency had sat silent for years until it was awarded to KBCZ in December 2020.
“It’s a difficult thing to do, really, start your own station. The FCC awards you a license, like they granted KBCZ 90.1FM back in 2013, but that license is just a piece of paper,” she said. “It’s up to the team to build the station, buy microphones, mixing boards and other equipment, build out the infrastructure and get people in the broadcast chair—normally that can take up to 10 years. We were lucky in that we have always had the support of our community and of course, the Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District, as our license owners, have always helped us to grow.”
Longtime DJ Big Bri, who hosts “The Reggae Soul Power Hour” every Friday from 4-6pm, is excited that friends and neighbors in Lompico, Scotts Valley, Felton, portions of Bonny Doon and Santa Cruz will be able to share and experience the community radio station.
“We provide vital information such as traffic and weather events, along with community events, and I am happy that more people will be able to receive our broadcasts,” she said.
The listener base has been enthusiastic and supportive of the expansion, Davey said.
“This little radio station really shines in times of disaster, and that was no more apparent than in the last six months. The DJs here get very serious about emergency broadcasting and we have worked hard on our local partnerships,” she said. “Boulder Creek Pizza Pub shares their backup power system with us, allowing our live studio to stay up in an emergency, and the San Lorenzo Valley Water District has assisted us with our antenna site. Boulder Creek Fire Department has also provided backup power to our existing antenna site, and we’re grateful for those relationships.”
Although the pandemic has changed the way in which KBCZ operates (hello, kitchen table DJs), this new opportunity will allow for fresh voices to emerge on the airwaves, Davey says.
“Covid-19 really stopped us in our tracks as it relates to training new DJs, but we will be able to welcome new talent through the door in coming weeks,” she said. “That’s always one of the aspects I most enjoy about this job, is when a person walks through the door and they are interested in being on the radio. They build their on-air persona, design their own show logos and start marketing themselves. Suddenly, they’re getting interviews, and listeners get to see this new entity appear in the world. It’s pretty cool.”
KBCZ airs 100% original programming, with music shows featuring live DJs who choose their own music from their own personal music collections. Davey says they don’t plan on purchasing any NPR-type news shows, as their News Roundup Monday through Thursday at 12:30pm is specific to the Valley.
“We want to highlight our lives here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, during the good times and the bad,” she said.
DJ Julie Horner, host of “The Mountain Road” on Monday nights from 7-9pm, said that KBCZ’s downtown location made it a “communications hub” during the recent mountain emergencies, and provided “a place to charge cell phones, and an eye on the scene that’s close to the fire and sheriff stations.”
“KBCZ had a front row seat when the helicopter delivered replacement HDPE pipe to the burned out SLVWD tanks above town after the CZU Complex fire, for instance. And being part of the musical fabric as a DJ just ties it all together,” she said.
The station is searching for new DJs, specifically for potential daytime shows on cooking, SLV/Santa Cruz history, and local and national sports. Interested? Email [email protected].