BZ Interview with KCRW Berlin co-founder John Kornblum

He has already done a lot in his life. “But this is one of the most exciting things,” says John Kornblum (74), describing his new project, “to start a radio station almost from scratch.” 

KCRW Berlin (104.1 FM, kcrwberlin.com) has been on the air for a week now . The studio in Steglitz went into operation on Friday with news programming from Berlin and the U.S. in addition to music.

The capital-related withdrawal of National Public Radio (NPR) from Berlin has moved the former United States ambassador and a handful of comrades in the cold water. “Berlin needs an American broadcaster,” he explains,” especially now that we are facing a deep crisis in Atlantic relations.” As a target group, he has the English-speaking community in Berlin in mind, especially the large group of young people from abroad, who do not speak German and their second (or first) language is English – those hipsters, in whose English language Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Jens Spahn recently took offense.

Kornblum welcomes the influx: “That so many young foreigners want to make Berlin their home is one of the city’s greatest strengths,” he is convinced. “English is a lingua franca for many in Berlin, including young Berliners.”

Music should play a very important role. KCRW, the California cult channel and partner for the Berlin project, is famous for its modern mix of pop and independent, electro and world. The night program will be telegraphed to Berlin. “And I’ll tell you,” says Kornblum, “There’s nothing comparable in Berlin yet!” The impression that he would like to moderate himself is not entirely wrong. “I’m from Detroit,” he clarifies. There techno had started in the 80’s.

From 5 o’clock in the morning there is news from Washington. The Berlin program windows are gradually being built up and expanded. The spectrum ranges from service information, local and cultural news to portrait and interview programs.

The project is charitable. The funding is made through donations, to which “the most exciting Berlin start-up of this year” (Kornblum) is urgently dependent: “Without a strong financial support from Berlin it will not work.”

by Ulrike Ruppel, editor / parliamentary correspondent, BZ-Politikredaktion