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February 6, 2023
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Los Gatos’ country station selling to K-LOVE owner for $3M

VP: “It’s not ‘Goodbye,’ it’s, ‘What’s next?’”

It traces its roots to North Santa Cruz Avenue. Its second studio was on Royce Street.

And even after moving its air room to San Jose, Los Gatos has remained 95.3 KRTY’s home, as far as the Federal Communications Commission is concerned. The independently-owned station may broadcast “San Jose’s Hot Country,” but the transmitter is located on Blackberry Hill.

But now, Empire Broadcasting Corp. is selling its bastion of “new country” to Christian broadcasting group Educational Media Foundation for $3.138 million.

EMF broadcasts “positive encouraging K-LOVE,” a contemporary Christian format that has more in common, sonically, with secular Top 40 hits than traditional worship music.

According to Wikipedia, EMF already has K-LOVE stations in Moss Beach (89.3 FM), Los Altos (97.7 FM) and in Livermore (107.3 FM). Its own website notes it also operates 90.7 FM in Tracy and 89.1 FM in Gilroy, with signals that reach San Jose’s borders.

And it has a ‘90s Christian pop station that can be heard in parts of the San Jose area.

Rocklin-based EMF had around $800,000 in assets at the end of 2020, according to an audit report.

But this won’t be a rerun of the classic sitcom WKRP’s plot, where an easy-listening station switches to cutting-edge rock n’ roll and hilarity ensues.

KRTY’s staff are all out of a job as of June 1.

Nate Deaton, KRTY’s vice president and general manager, said the disc jockeys weren’t too surprised when they got their pink slips.

“The last few years have not been kind to local media ownership,” he said, recalling their unsuccessful efforts to find a buyer nearby. “We tried to put together some local groups to buy it.”

EMF, America’s largest Christian radio leviathan, has been on a buying spree. It acquired six radio signals for $3.21 million as of May 18, 2021—and paid $3.17 million of this in cash.

At the time it had already entered into agreements to acquire six other signals for $8.41 million.

EMF also operates Air1—a format that started out as Christian rock but is now essentially indistinguishable from K-LOVE’s uber-produced saccharine content.

At a two-and-a-half hour drive away, in Sacramento’s suburbs, EMF’s headquarters is currently quasi-local, however, last year it announced plans to move its home base to Nashville.

That being said, EMF already has a station based in Los Gatos. On Dec. 1, it renewed a license for K205BN, which lasts until Dec. 1, 2029.

In the filing, the company notes it’s exempt from regulatory fees, since it’s technically a non-profit corporation.

The KRTY deal still requires FCC approval.

Heading south out of town toward the Lexington Reservoir, KRTY is one of the only stations that can be picked up clearly—along with such signals as Silicon Valley Asian Media Group’s Bolly 92.3, National Public Radio member 88.5 KQED and Pacific Radio Network’s KPFA 94.1.

Deaton says the sale was in line with the wishes of the estate of founder Bob Kieve, who died two years ago at age 98. But, because EMF didn’t buy the intellectual property, a country music rebirth—online or otherwise—remains a possibility.

“Thanks for 30 years of an amazing run of a radio station,” Deaton said. “It’s not ‘Goodbye,’ it’s, ‘What’s next?’”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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