Radio Malibu KBUU 99.1, Malibu’s first and only radio station, just passed a major milestone—five years on the air and counting. General Manager Hans Laetz took a few minutes out of one of his hectic 70-90 hour unpaid workweeks to talk about the hoops he’s jumped through to bring quality 24/7 programming in news and music to the city.
He and his wife, Diane, recently held a party to thank all of the station’s volunteers. There was much merriment over KBUU having just won its first Golden Mike at the 70th Annual Radio Television News Association of Southern California awards. The daily “Mo in the Morning” surf report, featuring surf reporter Modesto “Mo” Chilingar and producer Hans Laetz, got the top prize in the “under a minute” category, and the large trophy was passed around to all. It was a major achievement for an all-volunteer radio station.
Much has happened in the first five years of the station’s operation.
“We got it on the air, we got the music where we want it, got the computers set up and got over a dozen community volunteer music shows launched,” Laetz recounted. “This has gotten so much beyond just being ‘Hans’s radio station’—it’s blooming like I hoped it would.
“It’s a fun station—it’s all about enjoying. I’m having the time of my life,” Laetz continued. “I have people walking up to me at Pavilions because they recognize my voice. It’s so gratifying to see a car with a KBU sticker go down PCH, and I don’t know who they are. On social media, we get well over a thousand people a day. But the message I want to put out there is, it’s Malibu’s radio station, it’s not my radio station.”
It turns out that doing the weekday local news is way more time consuming than Laetz would’ve guessed.
“I originally thought I’d just be reading a few calendar items,” he said, but, “People call me and send tips, tweets and messages on Facebook to the point where we’re killing on traffic and breaking news. I’ve got more news every morning than I can get on the air. There’s so much happening!”
Because of that news time crunch and the thirst for local news in the mornings, Laetz recently brought on another volunteer—a new music director to take over duties that Hans had been doing himself to program music. The new guy, Dennis Scheyer, brings an impressive radio resume, where he started off as “New York’s Youngest DJ” over 40 years ago and went on from there. Now in LA, he runs his own podcast company, PopCult, and already hosts/produces two of KBUU’s shows: “The Menace’s Attic: Six Decades of Rock and Roll by Theme” and “Just Another Menace Sunday.”
“He’s got a much bigger library than I’ve got,” Laetz said.
In order to give listeners more access to the daily local news reports, Laetz is just about ready to launch a continuous replay of the news reports with updates on the KBUU website. Currently, on the morning radio broadcast, news is given seven times on the sevens: 7:07, 7:37, 8:07, 8:37, 9:07, 10:07 and 12:07.
Of the dozen or more community volunteer music shows that run on KBUU each week, mainly evenings and weekends, most are produced by Malibu residents. The station saves money by not having a studio—Laetz runs the controls from home, and music show contributors put together shows at their homes.
The station earned its stripes by staying on the air all night on the night of the Woolsey Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, broadcasting all of the fire information it could get, until it went off the air because the lines burned up. They began broadcasting again on Nov. 16, after installing gas powered generators at each of the station’s transmitter and relay sites, and Laetz is still grateful to all of the listeners who donated gas money.
The fire taught everyone in town the importance of keeping communication lines open in an emergency. Malibu Foundation funding has since allowed KBUU to convert to 100 percent solar power and take the lead in setting up emergency communications (phones and internet) for all of the local public schools and City Hall using microwave data links.
KBUU also plans to improve reception in eastern Malibu, which the FCC has approved—the station just doesn’t have the money right now.
For daily schedules of PBS syndicated shows like “The California Report” and music, go to radiomalibu.net/show-schedule/.