|Broadcast area||San Jose-Oakland-San Francisco, California|
|Branding||94.5 Bay FM|
|Owner||Alpha Media |
(Alpha Media Licensee LLC)
First air date
|January 1, 1970 (as KPER-FM at 94.3)|
Former call signs
|94.3 MHz (1969-1975)|
Call sign meaning
|HAAT||158 meters (518 ft)|
KBAY (94.5 FM, "Bay FM") is a classic hits radio station licensed to Gilroy, California, serving the San Francisco Bay Area and owned by Alpha Media, along with sister station KEZR. Its studios are located off US 101 and Hellyer Ave in South San Jose and the transmitter is on a hill in Santa Teresa County Park.
The facility went on the air in 1970 as KPER-FM at 94.3. The station broadcast in Gilroy with 3,000 watts and was co-owned with KAZA 1290 AM. KAZA and KPER-FM were split in 1973; Entertainment Radio, Inc., bought the FM and changed the call letters to KSND. Entertainment Radio filed to move the station to 94.5 from Loma Prieta Peak, noting that KPFA's grandfathered signal caused interference problems. The FCC agreed. When the new station reemerged in 1975, it became KFAT with a freeform country/rock format. In 1976, the station was sold to Wheatstone Bridge Engineering Company, and in 1980, KFAT-Levin Radio acquired the station. KFAT was co-founded by Laura Ellen Hopper, Jeremy Lansman, and Lorenzo Milam, who helped start many of community radio's pioneering stations in the United States.
Harvey Levin, the majority owner of KFAT-Levin Radio, died of cancer in May 1982 at the age of 38, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead to KFAT's demise. Levin had instructed his estate to sell KUIC in Vacaville to pay down debts and fund the continuation of KFAT, but the requested down payment on the Vacaville station was simply too high, and KFAT was sold first. Western Cities Broadcasting paid $3.6 million for the station, and needing vastly improved economic results from what KFAT was delivering, on January 17, 1983, KFAT flipped to CHR as KWSS. (Santa Cruz-area station KPIG-FM was heavily inspired by the legacy of KFAT.) KWSS, which moved its studios from Gilroy to San Jose shortly after the sale, was a well-regarded hit music station in the South Bay area. Bill Kelly & Al Kline were morning hosts of the station before moving to KXXX in early 1989. Other known personalities were Steven Seaweed (KLRB, KFAT, KRQR, KSAN), Craig Hunt, John Mack Flanagan (of KFRC), Barry Beck, Larry Morgan (of KIIS-FM), Danny Miller, Tim Anthony, and Dr. Dave Lewis. In late 1986, it was acquired by Nationwide Communications.
On March 1, 1991, KWSS abruptly ended its broadcast and stunted with a loop of "Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen for three days. On March 4, it changed its program format to classic rock as KUFX.
The KBAY call letters were originally assigned to a UHF television station (Channel 20), based in San Francisco. It ceased operation after a few years due to the scant number of Bay Area homes in the 1950s with UHF-capable television receivers. Channel 20 returned to the air as KEMO, eventually becoming today's KOFY-TV.
Originally broadcasting on 104.5 MHz in the 1950s, KBAY 100.3 FM, became the market leader in San Jose and had a very strong listening audience in both the San Jose and San Francisco markets throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Its easy listening format gave way to light jazz instrumentals and by the early 1990s, pop music was introduced. The Snell family guided the station and its sister, KEEN Country 1370 AM through the decades as United Broadcasting.
The Snells sold their two properties in 1997 and KBAY became a part of the American Radio Systems group, which included KKSJ (the former KEEN), KUFX, and KSJO. Shortly thereafter, a three-way swap of frequencies landed KBAY at 94.5 FM. KBAY then became known as "The Bay" for a couple of years. American Radio Systems sold KBAY to Infinity/CBS in 1999. In the early 2000s, the KBAY identity was replaced by B-94.5, "The Bee". This was an attempt to distance the station from the perceived "stigma" of its earlier life as an "elevator music" station. In September 2003, KBAY's owner CBS-Infinity Radio removed its "World Music" format, called "The Wave", from its 93.3 MHz frequency in order for KBAY to simulcast on it. Infinity moved the KBAY studios to San Francisco and 94.5 became legally identified as KBAA. The simulcast experiment lasted only a year much to the relief of its staff, largely from the South Bay. 93.3 was sold and became KRZZ with a Regional Mexican music format, and the KBAY call letters returned to 94.5. CBS-Infinity Radio sold KBAY and its sister Mix 106.5 KEZR FM to NextMedia Group in 2005. Effective February 10, 2014, KBAY, KEZR, and the 31 other NextMedia radio stations nationwide became part of a new broadcasting group headed by Dean Goodman called Digity LLC, an affiliate of Palm Beach Broadcasting, LLC, for a purchase price of $85 million. The company ran about 60 locally programmed stations.
Effective February 25, 2016, Digity, LLC and its 124 radio stations were acquired by Alpha Media for $264 million.
On December 16, 2016, "Sam and Lissa in the Morning" ended its run on KBAY, as Sam Van Zandt retired, and Lissa Kreisler was let go from the station. Van Zandt had worked in radio for 50 years, and Kreisler had worked at KBAY for 29 years. The dismissal of Kreisler was much to the disapproval of listeners, and she even stated that she "wanted a few more years." The year 2016 also saw Dana Jang, KBAY program director since 2005, depart, and Ronnie Stanton, who had last worked as program director at Vancouver's CFOX-FM, take over; evening host Nicci Ross also departed the station at the same time and moved to rival KISQ. The changes came as KBAY was facing increasing competition from KOIT and KISQ in the San Francisco market. The two San Francisco stations also appear in San Jose's ratings.
In 2018, veteran programmer Dave Numme was appointed Program Director/Content Director for 94.5 Bay FM and its sister, Mix 106/KEZR. About the same time, the stations' studios were moved from downtown San Jose after 20 years to a South San Jose business park. Under Numme's leadership, ratings for Bay-FM have consistently been number one in San Jose, as well as at the top of San Francisco's ratings for key demographics and dayparts. His on-air staff consists of Bruce Scott in mornings, longtime (since 1996) midday host Jona Denz-Hamilton, and Danny Miller in afternoons. Miller is also a public address announcer for the San Jose Sharks, San Jose Earthquakes and San Francisco 49ers.
In the spring of 2021, Bay-FM changed its slogan to "The '80s and More" and began to add '90s songs back to its playlist. New voice imaging was introduced along with the change and for the first time in decades the station no longer uses sung jingles.
KBAY switched to Christmas music every year from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day from approximately 2002 through 2017. In 2016, KBAY switched on November 19, almost a week earlier than usual, in response to KOIT also switching earlier.
During its Christmas music stint of 2016, KBAY began running liners promoting "one last present" from the station, to come at 5 p.m. on Christmas Day. Alpha Media announced on December 21 that KBAY would end its adult contemporary format after over 20 years and flip to classic hits as "94.5 Bay FM" at that time. The last song on KBAY was "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Straight No Chaser, and the first song on Bay FM was "We Built This City" by San Francisco band Starship. With the change, KBAY became the only Classic Hits station in San Jose and the adjacent San Francisco market. Bay FM announced it would, however, continue KBAY's annual Christmas Music programming, which had a significant positive effect on their ratings. It continued for one more year. The cessation of Christmas music has proven to be a ratings boost for Bay FM with its Classic Hits format.