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Kcsn Makes Hay With Country

THE PUBLIC RADIO WARS, last of four parts

October 11, 1985|JOHN VOLAND

For Cal State Northridge's KCSN-FM (88.5), the move to the country (country music, that is) has been as easy as a hayride in October, and quite a bit more profitable.

So profitable, in fact, that program director Mike Turner says there'll be practically no change--either in the station's current commitment to National Public Radio or in pursuing programming available on rival American Public Radio.

The 22-year-old station made the musical format switch from rock 'n' rhythm/rockabilly/folk to daytime country and nighttime classical a year ago, recently celebrating its first country anniversary at the North Hollywood country mecca, the Palomino. The station's management has even added to its country hours. Its 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. country music format was recently expanded to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. bloc.

"The response to country has been way above what we expected," Turner enthused. "Our fund-raising has been more productive. Country song requests have gone through the roof." The station's weekly average audience is now 40,000, Turner said, compared to 20,000 before the switch.

The only possible torpedo for KCSN's cruise is the looming increases in National Public Radio's membership fees, which Turner said "would probably represent about a tenfold increase for us--from $7,000, what we pay now, to about $70,000, starting in October of 1986."

As with other stations facing the NPR crunch, KCSN anticipates increased funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which already contributes about 12% of the station's budget now. Turner said the extra money would offset much of the NPR increase. The station has no intention of dropping out of the network, he said.

At the same time, KCSN has no plans to bid for American Public Radio programming, both because of the added expense and the fact that KUSC-FM and KLON-FM already have first priority on any APR programming, due to their previous affiliation with the network.

"(APR affiliation) is not in our cards for the moment," Turner said. "We'll have to wait and see."

In the midst of its successful change, Turner noted, a healthy part of KCSN's $600,000 budget will continue to be devoted to its largely student-staffed news department, which has won several local awards in recent years.

"The news department is still a high priority for us, and will always be," he said.

Country, classical and NPR have not completely taken over at KCSN. It still plays new-wave rock after midnight and maintains at least one other holdover from the old days: a commitment to radio drama.

"We still have our old-time radio shows on Sundays, including '30 Minutes to Curtain,' " Turner said. "I get a lot of requests for more drama and quiz shows like that program, but for the moment our schedule is pretty firm."

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