Spokane is set to welcome the first Spanish-language radio station in Eastern Washington when 1330 AM switches formats on Jan. 5.
The station, KMBI, currently is an English Christian station affiliated with the Moody Bible Institute. The format essentially will remain the same and the affiliation with Moody will remain, but the language will switch to Spanish.
“The Spanish community is continuing to grow in the area,” station manager Joe Gonzalez said. “There is no Spanish station for the Spanish community at all.”
The percentage of Hispanic and Latino population in Spokane County has grown from 4.5 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The total population was measured at 479,398 in 2013.
“I know it’s not a big community as in Pasco and some other stations,” Gonzalez said.
The closest Spanish-language stations are in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla. Overall there are just under 1,050 Spanish-language radio stations in the United States, according to the radio trade publication Inside Radio. That number has been growing slowly.
The station will play Spanish contemporary music, sermons in Spanish and other programs that have been translated from English into Spanish. “We’ll have a nice variety of programming,” Gonzalez said.
The Moody Bible Institute operates 36 radio stations across the country, several of them in a Spanish format. The stations are nonprofits and have their content underwritten by sponsors, much the same as National Public Radio does. At first, the content on the Spokane station will come from Moody’s headquarters in Chicago, but Gonzalez said he’d like to start producing local programming and already has contacted local Spanish-speaking pastors. “We will have more community news, eventually,” he said.
The growth in Spanish-language radio stations can be traced not only to the growing Latino population but also their affinity for listening to the radio. More than 93 percent of Hispanics age 18 to 34 listen to the radio each week for more than 11 hours, according to Nielsen. Overall, Hispanic radio listeners are the most engaged listeners of any racial group.
“I believe people will embrace it,” Gonzalez said. “Those in the Spanish community that I’ve spoken to say there’s a desire and a need for a Spanish radio station.”
KMBI is licensed as a daytime-only station and will be on the air between sunup and sundown.
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