Long Beach's first independent radio station officially flipped the switch Sunday morning, May 1, at 12:01 a.m. At a launch party at The Stave Bar in Downtown Long Beach, over 100 people came out to celebrate coming one giant step closer to finally making KLBP, The Long Beach Radio Project 99.1 FM, LBC's source of on-air conversation, news, music, and culture.
“You have CBS and many of the Clear Channel [and other] large corporations leaving the radio space, which to me seems like an opportunity,” says Ken Roth, KLBP President. “What radio can do, what low-power radio can do, is be hyper-local and really focus on what’s going on in the community, especially a community like Long Beach.”
KLBP is the city's only non-academic-powered station. Their mission is to air content with a broad spectrum—from music and cultural programming to important local issues. Currently, they're planning some stories on the lack of enforcement of the state's habitable housing codes (think rodents and backed-up sinks…not cool).
The station is recycling its current stream until it can transition into fully-programmed, scheduled shows, but that doesn’t mean listeners won't find something worthwhile to tune into right now. As far as hiring goes, now seems to be the time for aspiring radio show hosts to get in on the ground floor.
“If you want to have a show, you can have a show at this point," Roth says.
One talk show has two high school AP teachers who use a gigantic collection of old vinyl and 3D-unfolding-wood-cut comics from the '30s to drive their conversations, another is about the '70s and defending disco. There's a yacht rock show, a group of local DJs spinning their eclectic mixes into the stream, and Roth is especially thrilled to have guests like Odie Hawkins, one of the original Watts writers who helped changed the narrative of African-Americans around Los Angeles after the Watts Riots.
“It doesn’t seem to me like there’s a diversity of media,"Roth says. “Both the ‘Grunion’ (Gazette) and the Press-Telegram are owned by the same corporation [and] the Long Beach Post was formerly owned by the mayor. We’re owned by the community, so there’s a very different kind of vibe there. We’re not turning anyone down from being on the radio.”
KLBP will soon feature dozens of CD’s produced, written, and performed by local college students from Cal State Dominguez Hills as well.
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“It’s a real asset to the community to be able to hear this music that you wouldn’t otherwise hear,” Roth says. “Clear-channel’s not going to do that, CBS is not going to do that, the LA market isn’t going do that. Long Beach Community Radio is going to do that.”
Right now the station’s 6.5-mile radius reaches Downtown Long Beach, Wilmington, most of San Pedro, a piece of Palos Verdes, a corner of Carson, Signal Hill, and the water near Catalina. But listeners can stream online from their phones 24/7 anywhere around the globe.
KLBP is still looking for office space and a home to situate their antenna, but Roth is relieved and pleased to have enthusiastic community support and professionals like Eric Feighl and Alex Exum, who give KLBP its high-quality sound and feel. But there’s a lot of work ahead, along with more projects by KLBP’s parent company, Long Beach Community Television and Media Corporation (LBCTMC).
“This is the beginning, now the hard part starts,” Roth says.