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CSULB funds will keep KKJZ-FM on air

September 21, 2006|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

THE Southland's only full-time classic-jazz radio station, Cal State Long Beach-based KKJZ-FM (88.1), will keep spinning that music at least for a while longer with additional financial support approved this week by the CSULB Foundation.

"There has been no change to the programming on K-JAZZ, and none are contemplated," said Toni Beron, vice president of university relations, in a statement issued Tuesday.

An ongoing search for a new operator for KKJZ, currently run by Pacific Public Radio, had generated reports that the station might be on the verge of at least temporarily going silent -- ironically, in part because the station has conducted no on-air fundraising campaigns recently.

"The station will not go silent, and it will continue to be a jazz station," Beron said Tuesday. "Don't worry about that."

The new support funds, the amount of which was not specified, will allow PPR "to maintain the current level of operations at KKJZ-FM" while the process of sorting through proposals from contenders continues. In return, the foundation will get additional representation on the PPR board of directors.

PPR was created in 1987 by the CSULB Foundation to operate KKJZ after the 30,000-watt station's license was transferred to the university. When PPR's contract to manage KKJZ expired in December, several organizations were invited to submit bids to operate the station. Others include Minnesota Public Radio and its subsidiary, Southern California Public Radio (which also owns KPCC-FM), and the Los Angeles Jazz Institute (directed by Ken Poston, a former on-air personality and producer when the station's call letters were KLON-FM).

"The CSULB Foundation is continuing to evaluate proposals," Beron's statement said. "A recommendation will be forwarded to the CSULB Foundation Board of Directors on Oct. 5 to begin negotiations with the selected bidder." Beron previously had said the foundation's board was looking for an operator that can strengthen the station's ties to the university, possibly through internships and other student involvement, and that the board's intention is to retain a jazz format.

KKJZ is one of the nation's two remaining stations dedicated to the classic-jazz of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. Nationwide, classic-jazz formats have been dwindling in favor of smooth-jazz programming, such as that broadcast by the Wave (KTWV-FM 94.7), or other formats entirely.

The only other major-market classic jazz station with a professional staff is WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J. KKJZ, which has about 40 full- and part-time employees and 300,000 listeners, has struggled to break even each year with an annual budget of about $3 million.

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