99.1 KBUU---Zuma Beach FM Broadcasting
Not only is it the only local radio station in Malibu, but it’s the smallest radio station in greater Los Angeles in terms of wattage. It wasn’t easy getting the station started. Because of the Santa Monica Mountains, FM reception in Malibu is dicey. “We’re in a weird place,” Laetz says, demonstrating his point by turning the dial of a radio. Static engulfs the airwaves on all but two stations. “We really don’t get any FM out here.”
Under FCC regulations, Malibu is in the Los Angeles market and signals there have to yield to signals from as far away as Tijuana, Santa Barbara and Riverside. It’s virtually impossible to find an open frequency to host a new station. And yet, because the reception is so bad in Malibu, it’s more like every frequency is available. “Notice, the whole dial is empty,” Laetz says. “We don’t overlap with the L.A. market because we don’t pick up L.A.”
Once his engineer found a possible frequency, Laetz had to place his 50-watt transmitter somewhere where it would not blot out nearby stations on the dial. But finding a spot in Malibu to put an 85-foot-pole was impossible. The Coastal Commission has a firm 28-foot height limit.
After four rejected tower applications, Laetz was ready to throw in the towel last summer, until he found a spot at the top of a lone mountain that worked.
KBU’s signal range is only six miles, but listeners can stream the station online from anywhere in the world. Laetz has feedback from listeners in England, Germany and Chile, as well as in Malibu.