By Mara Stojanovic
UCSB’s radio station, KCSB, first started broadcasting in 1962 from Anacapa Hall. The station was founded by sophomore student, Bill Harrison, and friends, and was originally known as Radio Navajo, after the Anacapa floor hey lived in. KCSB’s commitment to non-commercial and educational programming by and for the public has been evident throughout its history. In the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November, 1963, KCSB’s news reporting and provision of logistical information cemented its role in the community and its position as the campus radio station.
During the 1960s, KCSB became the first University of California station to be licensed by the FCC. According to the KCSB website, by the end of the sixties, KCSB’s programming had expanded to include “free-form music, news, campus sports, public affairs, and cultural-arts programs.” While KCSB initially avoided broadcasting controversial rock music, the very nature of its mission to provide diverse music, news, and information unhindered by commercial interests to its community, already made it the subject of unwelcome attention.
The early seventies were a rocky time – students in Isla Vista protested the Vietnam War, slum conditions, over-policing, and large corporations. KCSB’s reporting of the turmoil occurring in Isla Vista led to the police ordering the station to shut down in April 1970. KCSB is the only licensed radio station to ever be shut down by the police this way, and while it was soon brought back on air, this event remains a crucial aspect of KCSB history because it serves as a demonstration of its commitment to providing the community with necessary information and representing unheard voices.
(1970, April 19). “KCSB ordered shut down; Ban in effect during curfew.” El Gaucho, p. 1.
Throughout its time at UCSB, KCSB has worked to connect with the student community and beyond. Community members run the station in a democratic, collaborative, and group oriented way. According to Ted Coe, KCSB’s advisor, “nothing exists [on campus] that’s quite like KCSB – a focus on the arts, a focus on underrepresented voices, emerging talent, people who don’t have corporate major level backing. There’s a focus on trying to help the little people that don’t have that support, and the ordinary folks, and that’s really unusual.” The station’s focus on representing voices in music and public affairs that could otherwise be drowned out by corporate interest makes it a natural part of student activism at UCSB. Students and community members who get involved with the station bring their activism with them, and the programs they create and news they share are shaped by their commitment to these ideals. KCSB highlights people from marginalized communities, people with political messages, people who would otherwise be ignored by more commercial stations focused on immediate profit. For example, students have put together programs dedicated to women in domestic and international music. KCSB also works to create events in the community, ranging from shows supporting local musicians to organizing panel discussions on topics such as environmental racism and natural disasters.
At its core, KCSB is about serving the community through its provision of music, art, and news that clearly differs from stations influenced by commercial interest. KCSB creates an opportunity for students to discover underrepresented musicians, learn about music and public affairs, and share their passions by listening to the station and participating in it. The station’s history shows its commitment to presenting the UCSB community with an educational platform dedicated to expanding the community’s sphere of interest while also connecting us through their creation and coverage of local events.
Featured Image: 1978 Staff photo, pulled from KCSB
[Coe, T. (2019, March 8). Personal interview.]
[KCSB, KCSB-FM, Retrieved from https://www.kcsb.org/.]
[(1970, April 19). “KCSB ordered shut down; Ban in effect during curfew.” El Gaucho, p. 1. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/5h73px13f.]