Thursday, December 7, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #200

Radio: December 8, 2017

The ink had barely dried on last week’s column regarding the financial problems with Cumulus Media -- owner locally of KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) -- when the media giant officially, finally, declared bankruptcy.

The move comes a month after the company defaulted on a payment of nearly $24 million of principal and interest on more than $2 billion the company has in debt. If approved, the bankruptcy -- pre-arranged with the majority of debtholders --  will cut about $1 billion in debt, leaving the company in much better financial shape.

It will also take the heat off of CEO Mary Berner at least temporarily. Under Berner, Cumulus has continued to struggle financially and in the stock market. But employee turnover is said to be far lower (though I’m not sure if this is due to happier employees or fewer cost-cutting layoffs) and employee morale is said to be better.

In my opinion the best move Berner made was to give local control back to the local market management. Former CEO Lew Dickey was known as a hands-on manager who wanted to approve everything. Berner has given decision-making back to the General Managers and programmers at the station and market level; this is a huge change that could help make Cumulus viable again.

In Los Angeles, KLOS is in a good position to become the local rock leader; programmer Keith Cunningham has revitalized the station and moved it away from classic rock to a classic-current rock hybrid. I personally hope he adds more current music, but whatever Cunningham decides, KLOS is in a far better place than it was just two years ago.

KABC is a different story. The station has some good shows with good hosts, but for various reasons (cough! marketing!) it has remained stagnant in the ratings. Perhaps the time has come to move from talk to a more full-service news/talk/music approach. Regardless, the time is ripe for a KABC comeback. If it stays talk, my suggestion would be to separate Jillian Barberie from The Drive Home and let John Phillips do the show on his own. Dump the replays and weekend paid programming as well ... it kills the ratings.

And here’s an idea as well: buy 100.3 from Educational Media Foundation. EMF vastly underpaid for the station as former owner Entercom found an owner that wouldn’t compete with Jack or KRTH as would The Sound. EMF could sell the station to Cumulus at a big profit, benefiting both companies at once. 100.3 could relaunch The Sound and KLOS could go mostly current. Done right, Cumulus could own the rock market in all demographics in Los Angeles.

Stories

I had a chance to be in the same building as about 50 radio legends once more, as the semi-annual Los Angeles radio reunion took place last weekend at Fuddruckers in Burbank. The best story, though, came from Machine Gun Kelly, who spoke of his time at KHJ (930 AM). “Best station I was ever at,” Kelly told me of his tenure that began at the age of 21.

It was his departure from the station that was so great. “John Sebastian (the new programmer) came to me about five minutes before my shift,” Kelly explained. “He told me that the station was moving in a new direction and that I had to tone it down ... no more of those (trademark) long yells of his name when he went on the air. I said sure, I’ll can do that.

So as my shift starts, I turn on the mic and yell ‘3 o’clock at K-H-J Los Angeles’ followed by the longest ‘with Machiiiiiinnnnnne Guuuuuuuuuun Kelly’ I have ever done It was probably at least 15 seconds long.

“Sebastian angrily walks into the studio and says ‘you’re fired.’ I tell him ‘that’s fine, I’ve already been hired by Ten-Q ... I’ll see you on the air at six tonight.”

Kelly knew what was coming and had been hired by Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) already ... he was just waiting for the day to leave. Things like that happened back in the days when stations competed for listeners.

Winker Fun

Airchexx.Com has a fun recording of Wink Martindale filing in on the morning shift of KFWB in June of 1965. Lots of horn blowing to add excitement ... typical for many stations of the era. Reached for comment, Martindale told me, “Geeez!!! Hard to believe I thought that was ‘entertaining’!!!!”

Regardless of his own opinion, Martindale sounds like he was having fun and the recording is an example of a long-gone era of early top-40 radio. One thing you might find interesting: marred only by tape hiss, the fidelity of the recording shows how good AM radio used to sound through a good AM radio. This is also a good example of Martindale prior to his evolution into one of the best MOR/Adult Standards radio hosts ever to grace the Los Angeles airwaves. You can hear the same friendliness he exudes on his television game shows too.

Odd hearing cigarette commercials on radio. This was prior to the ban of such advertising by the FCC.

Unfortunately, Martindale was hampered by KFWB’s programming that included quite a few stiffs record-wise. No wonder KRLA and KHJ “convinced” KFWB to change to news just two years later.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #199

Radio: December 1, 2017

I promise that I was going to let go of the CBS Radio-Entercom merger, in spite of my concern of what the merger may mean to the radio industry. But then I read something on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com that I couldn’t let go without comment:

“We are done apologizing about radio,” said David Field, CEO of the new Entercom. “(It’s) America’s #1 reach medium, which is massively undervalued.” 

This one quote says volumes about Field and what is wrong with radio. Frankly, if I owned stock in Entercom, I would be very concerned. But it does explain a lot. To wit: 

• One of radio’s greatest problems is revenue. Ad sales dropped in 2008 and have not rebounded. A major reason? Radio under the current corporate model has changed radio itself -- with rare exceptions -- from being a foreground activity with listeners actively engaged and is now a background service with listeners changing stations as soon as the advertising begins.

• To attempt to make up for lost revenue, stations added more commercials each hour, making the stop-sets even less tolerable to listeners. Add to that the sponsorships for everything “traffic is brought to you by ...” and the issue is compounded. No advertiser in his right mind would pay a premium to advertise on a station run this way ... which includes Entercom stations as well as iHeart and Cumulus. This explains why revenue among major corporate stations is flat in spite of ad minute increases.

• In order to supposedly move the merger ahead, Field sold the one station in Los Angeles -- The Sound (100.3 FM) -- that bucked the trend and had a fiercely loyal audience that did listen actively. This could have been exploited by the CBS sales department, but he looked at the spreadsheet instead of the audience. That he didn’t realize what he had or didn’t care is very telling ... it would appear that Field just doesn’t get it, and that may be the saddest part of this merger. He really should know better.

In conclusion, David, you are right: you don’t have to make apologies. But you’re in for a rude awakening if you think things are OK. Listeners still have ever increasing choices, and your programming and management decisions can either reverse ... or instead hasten, the trend away from radio. 

Dumping The Sound instead of, say, Jack (93.1 FM) shows your reliance on spreadsheets over understanding the art form and the true potential of well-programmed radio. There is still time to change, and I hope you do as you have the potential to do great things; in the meantime don’t apologize ... just keep your resume current.

Cumulus Update

Cumulus Media stock was officially delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange, and is now traded “over the counter” due to the company not maintaining a stock price over $1 as required by NASDAQ. As I write this, Cumulus is trading at 16 cents per share, with a total market cap value of less than $5 million dollars. Just last year, Cumulus -- which owns KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) locally -- did a reverse split to try to maintain the price but it was ultimately not successful.

What does this mean for Cumulus? Operationally, nothing. A company’s stock price doesn’t necessarily mean anything directly. The problem is with debt of more than $2 billion on which the company is apparently unable or unwilling to make payments. This will be a story to watch.

Where’s Olney?

A reader who wanted their name kept secret asked, “Could you please let the readers know what happened to Warren Olney on KCRW 89.9 FM?”

Olney gave up his daily syndicated show heard locally on KCRW, and is now doing a podcast. Find it via Olney’s Facebook page at facebook.com/KCRWToThePoint/

Extended Holiday

Go Country (105.1 FM) began playing holiday music last week as they did last year. It’s a good alternative to KOST (103.5 FM); I actually like it a little better. But I miss the country tunes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #198

Radio: November 24, 2017

The end finally came for The Sound 100.3 FM, Thursday, November 16. It came after weeks of goodbyes, allowed due to the unknown timing of the transfer of ownership of the station from Entercom to EMF, and Entercom management allowing the staff to stay on until the end, a rare gift that was truly appreciated by the Sound staff and listeners alike. 

Entercom management does deserve kudos for that, in my opinion, even though they made the decision to sell the wrong station. That just isn’t done very often.

Just before 1 p.m., Andy Chanley, the first DJ to be heard on The Sound almost ten years ago, wrapped it up with these words: “This has been KSWD Los Angeles. This is The Sound. And this dream will self-destruct in three, two, ...” followed by silence and one of the most awkward transitions to a new format I have ever heard ... including two segments of dead air. The new station is KKLQ, K-Love, yet another (I count six) Christian radio station serving Southern California. 

EMF bought the station for far less than market value because Entercom wanted to make sure that the new owners did not compete with existing CBS/Entercom stations as the two companies merged.

What makes this story so interesting is the reaction from listeners. The Sound, after all, was far from a trendsetter station. It played classic rock ... how hard is that? How original?

But while the music was part of it, it was far from being the most important element. Indeed, The Sound could have played almost anything. But unlike most stations, The Sound made a bond with listeners that just doesn’t happen often any more.

As mentioned, it wasn’t the music. It wasn’t the album sides played on actual vinyl. It wasn’t the way DJs or programmer Dave Beasing would personally contact listeners to ask what they thought of the station or to answer a question. It wasn’t the special weekends. Nor the concerts. It was all of that and more, including an air staff and people behind the scenes who truly love music, and love and understand good radio. It took time to build this bond, but it was most definitely built.

Perhaps that is why most listeners I have heard from will not be replacing their Sound preset on their radio. They are moving on. To Sirius/XM, to MP3 players, to online listening services. 

This is unfortunate, but a reality. Unlike many who think a Sound-like station will never return, I do believe it can ... I can give you a list of underperforming stations right now. Hopefully, former Sound programmer Dave Beasing will get another shot to build a great station, and our on-air friends can be heard once more.

Effect on Entercom

The CBS-Entercom merger should be complete by the time you read this, meaning that CBS Radio no longer exists and stations formerly part of one of the oldest broadcasting companies are now owned by Entercom. It was this merger that forced the sale of The Sound (or another local CBS property) as the combined company was over the ownership limit of radio stations in a single city.

That former Sound listeners may leave radio altogether is not good news for Entercom or CEO David Field, who made the decision to sell The Sound. The reason is shared listeners. Yes, Sound fans may have listened to 100.3 more often, but they also sampled Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1) and KRTH (101.1 FM), both now owned by Entercom.

If those listeners do indeed abandon radio as expected, this may -- depending on how much they did listen -- negatively affect both Jack and KRTH. Field may have “sold” his way into lower ratings by dumping the one station he had with a rabidly dedicated audience. Not smart. He should have either moved the format to 93.1 or just sold Jack outright. No one cares about Jack.

More Christmas

KOST (103.5 FM) has -- as expected -- started the Christmas carols, launching its annual holiday music format about two weeks ago. 

Also as expected, SiriusXM fired up its holiday music as well. Contemporary (Holly) on Channel 70 and traditional (Holiday Traditions) on Channel 4 are already up and running; soul, country, pops, latin and even Hanukkah music will be available beginning late November and early December. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #197

Radio: November 17, 2017

Troubled Cumulus Media is the owner of over 400 radio stations nationwide including KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) locally. The company, which has been trying for years to figure out a way to stay afloat amidst a Titanic-level of debt, decided to forgo payment of about $23 million in interest due on loans totaling over $2 billion. The decision was made earlier this month by the company Board of Directors.

Some claim it is a hardball push to get lenders to agree to concessions. Whatever the reason, the move could land the company in bankruptcy court sooner than later if agreements cannot be made. The company is currently in a 30-day grace period in which it can still decide to make the required payment as negotiations with creditors continue.

The frightening aspect? Inside Music Media’s Jerry Del Colliano wrote recently that “Lew Dickey is waiting -- blank check in hand -- to pounce on regaining control of Cumulus the moment it enters bankruptcy.”

For the uninitiated, it was Lew Dickey who put Cumulus on its death spiral through purchases, mergers and truly bad management ... he was forced out of the company in a coup that placed Mary Berner in his former position of CEO. The problem is that Berner was way too little far too late ... Berner had no radio experience and the vultures were already circling the company long before she arrived.
 
So how can Dickey be poised to regain control ... something that Del Colliano says is fact, not rumor? Apparently, like Bill Gates’ educational initiatives, people love failure. And for whatever reason, investors continue to give money and support to those who consistently fail. So what if Dickey proved he couldn’t run Cumulus in the past? Let’s give him another shot.

What should happen to Cumulus is that the bankruptcy court and the FCC should force it to sell every one of its stations until the debt is paid off. To local owners who will run the stations like radio should be run: competitively and creatively. Using local talent, serving the local community. Cumulus could still exist as a lean company with no debt, keeping about 50 stations nationwide ... if it so desired.

Dickey? Been there, done that. Time to move on.

My Turn Redux

Several letters and emails arrived after last week’s column on my My Turn on The Sound (100.3 FM). Most mentioned other stations that could/should have been highlighted.

I agree. There are many stations that could have been recognized had there been more time. KRLA, KFWB, KROQ, K-WEST, KBLA even KFI. The problem was time ... I had just ten songs and less than an hour. Now if we can get Sound programmer Dave Beasing another local gig, perhaps that can happen. Of course by the time you read this, The Sound is probably already gone ... so it may be a while.

War not over?

It seems that some of you remember the “War of the Worlds” differently than what has become the modern version of the story ... you were indeed led to believe that martians had landed.

“Living in Long Beach, and finishing the dishes in the kitchen with my sister and mother, we were listening to the program and really thought it was happening!,” writes reader Peggy Folger Miller. “We ran into the living room and my father told us to stay seated together while he went throughout the house, getting my brother and other sister so we could all stay close!
 
“Sorry; it was no myth in our part of town.”

“Steve Allen told me in one of our many interviews and guest disc-jockey airings that he and his mother were two victims of the show,” wrote former LA radio personality and programmer Chuck Southcott. “He recalled, as a teenager, hearing "Worlds" with his mother in a hotel room in Chicago. Not hearing the intro explaining it was a drama, they were totally fooled. In fact, they ran out of the hotel screaming and looking for others who were as frightened as they. 

“When they soon discovered that ‘life was continuing normally,’ they sheepishly returned to their hotel. Steve said he didn't recall ever being that frightened in his life.”
 
But agreeing with the new view on the panic - that most of the panic was brought on by the newspapers of the day, is Lynn Burgess, who says, “I was an 11 year old listening to our evening radio in Manhattan, NYC when the program came on. My then 10 year old brother and I listened to the radio station's mystery broadcasts weekly. The week previously, the "War of the Worlds" was announced, therefore it was no surprise to us. We were surprised by the fuss that followed! 

“At age 90, remembering. Radio was a great form of entertainment ... letting us use our imagination and stretching our minds.”

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #196

Radio: November 10, 2017

I’ve been talking with Dave Beasing, programmer of The Sound, about doing either a My Turn segment on the station for almost as long as the station has been on the air. For various reasons we never did it, until last month just after the announcement that the station was being sold. Honestly, neither of us knew it would ever air when it was recorded in early October when I visited the station, due to the station’s impending sale and unknown format-change date.

It aired last Sunday.

The plan was right up my alley: a tribute to some of the stations we loved but are no longer with us: KHJ (930 AM) as a top-40 station, the Mellow Sound of KNX-FM (now KCBS-FM, 93.1), The Mighty Met KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM), KLOS (95.5 FM), KNAC (now KBUA, 105.5 FM) and The Sound itself.

Admittedly, the KLOS segment could be considered a roast, as kids say today, since KLOS is most certainly still on the air. As Johnny Fever announced on CBS-Television’s WKRP in Cincinnati, “how can I miss you if you won’t go away,” but this was actually meant as a tribute to the KLOS of the mid-1970s and what it played as it competed against KMET.

My plan was to play songs representative of each station’s heydays, which for the most part I think came out OK. For KHJ the songs were This Diamond Ring (Gary Lewis and the Playboys) and I’m Just a Singer (Moody Blues); for KNX-FM they were Fire and Rain (James Taylor) and Who Can it Be Now (Men at Work); and the KMET songs were D'yer Mak'er (which I still pronounced wrong in spite of practicing, by Led Zeppelin) and Rock and Roll Never Forgets (Bob Seger), one of the last songs played on KMET before it left the air in 1987.

For KLOS I chose Bungle in the Jungle (Jethro Tull) and Jamie’s Cryin’ (Van Halen), two songs I heard often on the station ... the former at Clear Creek Camp and the latter in electronics shop at San Pedro High. And finally, for KNAC I “cheated” and used a song from my son’s band that would have fit were it still on the air, Misdirect (Divine Intervention). The finale was Zeppelin’s Ten Years Gone, a song that just seems to fit The Sound’s ten-year existence.

As I said, I think the songs fit fairly well. But as Sound DJ Cynthia Fox -- a KMET alumnus -- pointed out, “one of the outstanding aspects of KMET was playing deeper tracks by the bands the fans loved; it established our credibility as true music fans. So with Led Zeppelin, you'd hear deeper album tracks like The Rover, In the Light, Bron Y Aur, Tangerine, That's the Way, How Many More Times, No Quarter, and on and on. D'yer Mak'er ... not so much emphasis there!!”

Interestingly, I chose the song because it was included in an old KMET air check I was listening to before the show was recorded. But in hindsight, she’s right ... not the best choice to showcase KMET. 

Regardless, it was a blast to do, fun (for me) to hear, and if you heard it, I hope you enjoyed it. It is programs and attitudes like this that help set The Sound apart from the crowd; I sincerely hope that someday, somehow, some time, The Sound can return. We really need stations like this: stations with soul. Stations that treat listeners with respect and try to be at least a little different. Or, as Cynthia Fox calls it, intelligent radio. Thank you, Dave Beasing, for letting this all happen.

War not over?

It seems that some of you remember the War of the Worlds differently than what has become the modern version of the story ... you were indeed led to believe that martians had landed.

“Living in Long Beach, and finishing the dishes in the kitchen with my sister and mother, we were listening to the program and really thought it was happening! We ran into the living room and my father told us to stay seated together in the living room while he went throughout the house, getting my brother and other sister so we could all stay close together in the living room! 

Peggy Folger Miller wrote to tell this: “My uncle who also lived in Long Beach, married but with no children, called us and told us to stay put and he would come over to protect us. He had served in both the Army and Navy and thought we needed his experience in a time like this. The next day, it was the talk of the neighborhood and school as everyone wanted to share their stories of fright.

“If we had lived in New Jersey, boy, we would have run someplace!!  (If memory serves me correctly, I think it was New Jersey or thereabouts where the Martians landed.) Sorry; it was no myth in our part of town.”

Former programmer and DJ Chuck Southcott tells this: “Steve Allen told me in one of our many interviews and guest disc-jockey airings that he and his mother were two victims of the show in that he recalled, as a teenager, hearing "Worlds" with his mother in a hotel room in Chicago. Not hearing the intro explaining it was a drama, they were totally fooled. In fact, they ran out of the hotel screaming and looking for others who were as frightened as they. 

“When they soon discovered that "life was continuing normally," they sheepishly returned to their hotel. Steve said he didn't recall ever being that frightened in his life.” 

But agreeing with the new view on the panic - that most of the panic was brought on by the newspapers of the day, is Lynn Burgess, who says, “I was an 11 year old listening to our evening radio in Manhattan, NYC when the program came on. My then 10 year old brother and I listened to the radio station's mystery broadcasts weekly. The week previously, the "War of the Worlds" was announced, therefore it was no surprise to us. We were surprised by the fuss that followed! Jersey farmers running around with pitchforks for defense. Really? 

“At age 90, remembering. Radio was a great form of entertainment ... letting us use our imagination and stretching our minds.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #195

Radio: November 3, 2017

By now I am sure you’ve heard about the night that panicked America. Seventy-nine years ago this week -- October 30 1938 -- was the night that Orson Welles scared the nation into believing that the earth was being taken over by martians through his presentation of a radio adaption of H. G. Wells’ book, War of the Worlds, on his CBS program Mercury Theater on the Air.

I’ve heard about it for years. In 1975, ABC Television aired a television drama depicting the event, and even National Public Radio, as I recall, got into the act by producing a contemporary version of the play back around 1988.

People listening to the program didn’t realize they were listening to a play, instead thinking that the live news broadcasts from Grovers Mills, New Jersey were real. Around the country people panicked, running into the street, filling highways trying to escape, and begging law enforcement for gas masks to save them from the effects of toxic gasses.

There’s only one problem: it never happened.

Oh, certainly the broadcast happened. I’ve heard recordings of the original broadcast; I am sure you have too. But one thing always seemed a bit out of place. I know we are cynical people these days, but even though I always heard the panic stories, I kept thinking to myself: “were people truly that naive to be misled into a panic by what I consider such an unbelievable storyline?”

I remember asking my parents. “It may have happened on the East Coast,” my Mom told me, “but no one on the West Coast panicked.” Still I kept the story in my mind as an example of the power of radio ... for better of worse.

Until last week when I was watching cable network TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything. In an episode centering on Halloween, host Adam Conover spoke of Welles and War, telling how the entire story surrounding the radio play was indeed an urban myth.

For one, the audience for War was small. Most of the nation was tuned to the popular NBC program, Edgar Bergen’s Chase and Sanborn Hour, a comedy and variety show. In fact, the Hooper Ratings service had telephoned households the night of the broadcast for its national ratings survey and determined that only two percent of the potential audience was listening to Welle’s show. 98 percent of America was not.

Sources quoted by Conover including Slate.Com stated it this way: “The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.”

So how did this myth gain traction? Newspapers. By 1938, radio had cut into advertising dollars that formerly went to newspapers. Newspaper editors wanted to show the public -- and potential advertisers -- how radio was not responsible and could not be trusted to provide real news coverage. So they used anecdotal stories to sensationalize the panic caused by the broadcasts.

As Slate.Com wrote, “was the small audience that listened to War of the Worlds excited by what they heard? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean they ran into the streets fearing for the fate of humanity.” Kind of makes you feel better, doesn’t it?

More Sound

The transfer of ownership for The Sound (100.3 FM) is taking longer than originally expected; it may now be as late as the second half of November before we lose one of the best FM stations in the past decade. Enjoy it while you can.

No Studios

The impotent and essentially worthless FCC has decided that radio stations need not be part of the local community it is licensed to serve.

Reversing a rule that has been in place since 1934 in which “each AM radio, FM radio and television broadcast station to have a main studio located in or near its local community,” the FCC last week voted to remove that requirement using the argument that email and similar communications negate the need for a local presence.

I disagree. The airwaves are a public resource. Radio has been on a downward spiral as stations remove more and more local content. The new ruling essentially means an entire station need not even be part of the community at all. And you can be sure that cash-strapped companies will use this to their advantage; there truly is nothing to stop a station from moving the entire operation to another city. Or state. Or country.

This is not good for radio, whose executives are too stupid to see their own greed has devalued the entire industry. And since the FCC Commissioners refuse to do their jobs, it is time to disband the FCC. As decisions like this allow radio as an industry to decline into oblivion, there is no reason for the commission to exist anyway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #194

Radio: October 27, 2017

An early morning fire threatened the Observatory as well as numerous broadcast towers on Mount Wilson on October 17th. Many of the most popular and powerful radio stations along with most if not all local television stations transmit from the area.

The fire broke out sometime around 4 a.m. and smoke could be seen from quite a distance. Saul Levine’s Go Country 105 was one of the radio stations that was potentially threatened by the fire; Levine told me that he was ready to go to an alternate transmitter from another site if needed, though that never happened as firefighters had control of the 30-acre blaze fairly quickly. 

In all, over $500 million worth of broadcasting equipment was threatened, and the cause of the blaze was said to be “suspicious.”

Who’s on First?

In just a few days it will be November. And you now what that means: time for KOST (103.5 FM) to make the yearly switch to holiday music.

The big question is when? Last year they made the move a little early to try to help unite the city after the election. This year they could use the same excuse. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t just run it all year ... the change always gives the station a huge boost in the ratings.

Besides KOST, Go Country sometimes joins the fray as does SiriusXM, which usually offers multiple channels of holiday music, each with a different focus.

Delaying the Inevitable

Investors are working on a plan to keep iHeart Media out of bankruptcy, at least for now. If it goes through it may signal a new controlling interest for the company that is saddled with about $20 billion -- yes billion in debt.

How did it get so far under water? Simple: it got what it wanted. An inept, impotent FCC and Department of Justice that allowed companies to expand far above their ability to operate profitably. Instead of promised efficiencies and expanded listener choices, creativity stagnated and listeners responded by moving elsewhere.

Cost-cutting by owners such as iHeart, CBS, Cumulus and EMF have caused radio to become a background activity rather than foreground. Radio thus lost the ability to charge advertising rates they had in the days when ownership was limited and stations competed for listeners. Without the necessary income, costs were cut again and again with disastrous effects.

The fix? Bring back ownership caps and give preference to local control. In other words, just let the huge McRadio companies die a deserved death and let local owners bring listeners back to radio with programming that makes people want to listen. Compelling content goes a long way.

Bring Back Bonneville

There are a few companies that do a great job of allowing local programmers to do their job without the requirement to always cut costs. Much of what made The Sound KSWD, 100.3 FM) so great as a local station was due to the seed planted by Bonneville Broadcasting when it launched the station ten years ago.

Hopefully if the chance comes up, perhaps Bonneville can re-enter the Los Angeles market it left when it traded The Sound away to Entercom a few years ago.

Preset Selection

Speaking of The Sound ... if it was one of the stations on your radio presets, what are you going to replace it with once it goes off the air, assuming it is still on as you read this? Have a good replacement? Or will you be moving to SiriusXM or something else? Let me know.