Jennifer Ferro

Jennifer Ferro, president and general manager of KCRW, said KCRW has long had loyal fans in the Santa Barbara market, despite its weak signal there. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times / January 22, 2014)

Santa Barbara's radio airwaves are about to get a little more eclectic. 

Public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9), the Santa Monica-based NPR-affiliate, is acquiring Santa Barbara's oldest radio station, classical broadcaster KDB-FM (93.7), for about $1 million to improve its reach to California's Central Coast. 

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For the Record

KCRW: An article in the Feb. 19 Business section about KCRW buying KDB-RM (93.7) said KCRW had a fundraising goal of $20 million, in part to fund a new building at Santa Monica City College. The $20 million is to furnish the building and pay for technology and programming.

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Starting in the spring, KCRW will air its programming on 88.7 for Santa Barbara listeners, bringing them national shows such as "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "This American Life."

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The acquisition also expands the potential audience for KCRW's in-house programming, such as the popular music show "Morning Becomes Eclectic," current affairs talker "To the Point" and the new "Press Play" with Madeleine Brand.

Jennifer Ferro, president and general manager of KCRW, said the station has long had loyal fans in the Santa Barbara market, despite its weak signal there.  

"I'm not really interested in building an empire or anything," Ferro said. "When we finally had this opportunity, we thought it was a natural fit."

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KDB's owner since 2003, the Santa Barbara Foundation, announced last year that it was putting the commercial classical outlet on the market, and there was interest from multiple potential buyers.

However, this does not mean the end of classical music in Santa Barbara. Los Angeles-based classical station KUSC-FM will combine with KDB and continue to broadcast works of Mozart and Tchaikovsky from the 93.7 signal. 

“With the transition to the 'new KDB,' we were able to keep classical music alive while enhancing and expanding the variety of musical programming offered in Santa Barbara," Ron Gallo, the foundation's president and chief executive, said in a statement. 

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KCRW's Santa Barbara outlet will broadcast from the Antioch University campus, where the studio will be staffed by interns and at least two employees.

The local alternative weekly paper, the Santa Barbara Independent, will contribute reporting to local broadcasts of "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." KCRW will also partner with Mission and State, a local investigative journalism nonprofit. 

This purchase comes at a time of expansion for KCRW, whose headquarters are currently housed in the basement of Santa Monica College's cafeteria building.

Last year, KCRW kicked off a fundraising drive with the goal of generating $20 million, in part to fund a new three-story, 35,000-square-foot building on Santa Monica College's Academy of Entertainment and Technology campus.

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com
Twitter: @rfaughnder