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Radio AM to FM: March 7, 2003

KFSG leaves the air

The oldest radio format in Los Angeles quietly left the Southern California airwaves at 11:30 February 28th as KFSG (93.5 FM) signed off forever; replaced by "El Sabroso," playing a mix of salsa, cumbia and merengue music under the calls KZAB.

KFSG, which stood for Kall Four Square Gospel in reference to the owner, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, went on the air on February 6, 1924. It was the first religious radio station in Los Angeles and was started with $25,000 raised through a freewill offering.

The Foursquare Gospel Church was was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, who wanted to launch the radio station in order to carry the message of the church to as wide a "congregation" as possible.

The debut broadcast on the evening of February 6th began with the song, "Give the Winds a Mighty Voice - Jesus Saves," thus beginning a format that lasted almost 80 years. The station was originally found at 1080 AM, worked its way over to 1090, 1190, 1120 and 1150, a frequency shared by then KRKD. KRKD would broadcast during the day, KFSG would take over evenings and all day on Sundays.

In 1961, the church took full control of 1150 AM as well as KRKD-FM (96.3). The AM was sold in 1970 and became KIIS; the FM continued the religious format until it was sold to Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc. in 2000. As part of that sale, KFSG was allowed to continue broadcasting under a lease agreement on Spanish Broadcasting's sister station at 93.5 FM, years ago known as KFOX in Redondo Beach. That lease ran out last Saturday, however, and Spanish Broadcasting wanted control of the station back.

In the uncrowded days of early AM radio, KFSG was said to be heard as far away as Hawaii and on ships at sea using their 500-watt Class A Western Electric transmitter -- high power back then but a drop in the bucket compared with today's 5000 to 50,000 watt stations.

And as if to prove that radio is a business after all, note that the church sold their AM station back in 1970 when AM was king and FM was nothing -- most likely making some quick cash -- and held on to the FM until it sold for in 2000 for $250 million. In other words, KFSG wasn't forced off the air, it left willingly ... knowing all along that the lease on 93.5 FM was only temporary.

What happens now? I am speculating, but it could be that KFSG will reappear on another frequency if a lease can be worked out. In the meantime, the church symbolically handed over the keys to their format to Salem's KKLA (99.5 FM), as the two stations did a simulcast on February 28th in order to introduce KFSG listeners to KKLA.


Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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