Saul Levine is one of my media heroes. He likes to promote the music he loves: Jazz and Classical. Levine’s company, Mt. Wilson Broadcasters, is a pioneer of FM radio in Los Angeles.
Mt. Wilson started KKGO-FM in the early 1960s. Thirty years later during the hyper-consolidation of the 1990s every other independent FM operator in Southern California had sold their licenses for monster money. Saul Levine held on and is still moving forward.
For many years KKGO was LA’s jazz voice. They had legendary hosts such as Chuck Niles. I can close my eyes and still his voice in my mind from the times I went to his shows at the Hollywood Bowl.
In 1989, when Classical powerhouse KFAC was sold to a hip-hop operator. At the time I was GM at KCSN, Northridge. We flipped KCSN to classical. We did it because the loss of KFAC created a huge void in the market. As the years went by, KKGO went Classical. KUSC got its act together. Since then KUSC became the dominant Classical music station in SoCal and NoCal.
Ever a smart operator, Levine knew when to hold them, knew when to fold them. He switched KKGO to Country. It is a big-money format that was open in LA . Bingo! Mt. Wilson hit the jackpot!
There were many observers who criticized Levine for KKGO'S format change. They said he “sold out.”
I disagree. Saul was protecting his family business by keeping ownership of the license. Nothing is possible without the license. Saul made the programming move I would have done. Switching to Country preserved KKGO’s independent future. As a former commercial station owner myself, I admire him.
SAUL LEVINE BRINGS CLASSICAL TO MONTEREY BAY
Mt. Wilson has poured some of its Country music profits into acquiring and operating eclectic stations in smaller markets in the West. Levine has just sold one station and donated another to USC Radio. USC owns KDFC, San Francisco, and the new outlets will repeat KDFC’s Classical programming.
Levine sold KBOQ-FM, Seaside, for $475,000 to USC. It is a pretty solid Monterey metro player. He is donating KMZT-FM, which covers breath-taking and remote areas around Big Sur. (maps below)
(Levine also sold another area station – KYZZ (Salinas) and its translators to Educational Media Foundation (EMF) for $1.25 million cash. EMF plans on making them repeaters of satellite-delivered K-LOVE.)
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PROPOSED PURCHASE OF KUSP, SANTA CRUZ?
A little over a year ago KUSP was discussing the sale of KUSP to USC Radio for around $1 million. Now they are again reportedly considering selling the license. Now that million bucks is not going to happen.
Now Saul has made it possible for thousands of people to enjoy Classical on the radio.