Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #206

Radio: January 19, 2018

Amp Radio (97.1 FM) is finally getting a new morning show.

Former morning man Carson Daly left the station in July to (supposedly) spend more time with family, though I think money had much to do with it as former owner CBS was cutting numerous positions all last year. Regardless, the station has been without an “official” morning show since Daly left, and numerous observers speculated that perhaps Amp would simply go without.

Putting those rumors to rest, Amp announced last week that Edgar Sotelo and Brian Moote would have wake-up duties beginning in February, though no exact date was given.

Sotelo was last heard on Amp Radio in New York, where he hosted mornings until that station changed to alternative in November. Moote was part of WWWQ/Atlanta’s “The Bert Show.”

Both face formidable competition from a variety of stations such as Alt 98.7’s The Woody Show, KLOS’s (95.5 FM)) Heidi, Frosty and Frank, and Amp’s own sister station KROQ’s Kevin and Bean.
 
But Amp’s main competition is KIIS (102.7 FM), and morning man Ryan Seacrest has been literally calling in his show from New York as he hosts -- at roughly the same time -- television’s Live! with Kelly Ripa ... his radio show acting as a mere promotional tool for his television shows and appearances. This leaves KIIS potentially vulnerable, and may make for some interesting competition.

Kevin on the Weekend

Speaking of Amp Radio, if you haven’t heard Kevin (Schatz) on Amp weekends (6 a.m. to 12 noon, I believe), you’re missing out. The South Bay local boy plays the hits with a special mustache twist ...
Cuts at KCAL

The problem of declining advertising revenues in radio are apparently not hurting just the large group owners that caused the problem. Last week the Inland Empire’s KCAL (96.7 FM) announced cuts that meant the loss of longtime morning hosts James “Jimbo” Smith and Tiffany Angelo, morning producer Steven Kono, and 42-year KCAL personality Michael Stewart, who had been doing overnights.

“The cuts took us by surprise,” said KCAL programmer Darly Norsell who explained that it was even more of a surprise as the station has been doing well in ratings lately.

The cuts apparently came down straight from the station’s owners, Anaheim Broadcasting, which also owns KOLA (99.9 FM) once owned the former KEZY in Anaheim, hence the name. Anaheim Broadcasting is run by Tim Sullivan, once a general manager of KHJ (930 AM) and later KWST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM).

KCAL General Manager Jeff Parke told RAMP.Com that “ownership decided they just couldn’t keep operating KCAL with such high expenses,” adding “this has been really tough, to say the least. All the people we let go are like family.”

Patrick Tish, the remaining member of the former morning show, now hosts a music-intensive show; Frank Garcia, who serves as the station’s production director, has taken overnights. No format change is planned. KCAL was one of the stations I applied to years ago. They turned me down ...

This is an unfortunate situation; I hope KCAL can get back on better financial footing. We need local stations!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #205

Radio: December 12, 2018

One of the weekend highlights of the former classic rock station The Sound (now religious KKLQ, 100.3 FM) was Mimi Chen’s Peace, Love, and Sunday Mornings, an eclectic musical program that truly harkened back to the days of KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) or even KNX-FM (now KCBS-FM, 93.1). When The Sound found God, her show was without a home. At least for a while. 

The obvious place for her show is the new 88.5 FM, formerly known as KCSN. And that’s exactly where she landed.
 
88.5’s facebook page announced on January 5th that “The rumors are true! We are happy to welcome Mimi Chen's Peace, Love and Sunday Mornings to 88.5 FM starting this Sunday 1-3 p.m.”

OK ... Sunday mornings on Sunday afternoon? Perhaps the show needs to change the name to Peace, Love and Sunday Brunch, as one fan (Julie Wysocki) posted on Facebook. For now it’s just Peace, Love and Sunday and started on January 7th. Same show, same vibe. Which is good.

Now all 88.5 has to do is tweak their signal. In spite of a power increase and a simulcast utilizing the same frequency of the former KSBR in Orange County, I can still barely pick up the station at home or in the car. Streaming works, of course, at 885fm.org

Speaking of Signal Issues

Reader Rick Hamilton of San Pedro has a bone to pick with SiriusXM satellite radio. Namely that the signal has been weak lately. “I was stuck in traffic on the freeway a few weeks ago, and the signal just kept dropping out,” he told me. “It got so bad I couldn’t even listen.”

I’ve noticed the same problem ... far  more dead spots than normal. Not so bad that I can’t listen, but I haven’t been stuck in traffic so I quickly travel through the dead spots. I plan to contact their engineering department for an explanation, but before I do, I wanted to ask you: have you been experiencing problems with SiriusXM? If so, send me the location of trouble and I will send a report listing them all. My hunch is that it has to do with un-synchronized land-based signal boosters. If you happen to know which system you are using (Sirius, XM or the newer SiriusXM) that would be helpful.

Radio’s Problems

I’ve been on a clock-radio kick lately: my Boston Horizon Duo-i started having issues, so I set out to find a replacement. Unfortunately I could not, so I bought another Duo-i off of eBay.

But I thought it would be a good idea to check out the other radios in the house, including my younger son’s Horizon Solo which works fine other than a dim clock dial. I figured I’d take the lamp from my broken radio and fix his.

“Don’t bother,” he told me. “I never listen to the radio any more anyway. There’s just nothing on.” His music comes from iTunes on his computer.

My older son? SiriusXM.

Two kids who shun radio completely, both sons of a radio dork who lives and breathes radio. If I didn’t set an example, I  can’t imagine who could. This is anecdotal, but at the same time not a good trend.

KFI HD

KFI (640 AM) was once the second-best sounding AM HD Radio station in town (KNX 1070 AM is still the best). But for reasons very unclear to me at the time, KFI management made the decision to shut off the HD on the AM signal and instead simulcast the signal on a secondary channel of KOST (103.5 FM) using 103.5 HD2.

According to a reliable source, the reason for shutting off the AM HD signal was that one listener complained that they didn’t like the abrupt change that happened when the HD signal wasn’t strong enough, and the radio had to switch to analog.

One listener. Not confirmed, of course, but most likely true ... my sources are darn good.

So the rest of us can’t experience KFI in HD because of one listener. Oh, we can listen to the KOST simulcast, but that drops out so often it is virtually unlistenable in the South Bay of LA County. To make matters worse, KFI still broadcasts in narrow band analog, so the station sounds bad even on a good wide-band AM radio. And don’t get me started on the technical tweaks that supposedly help ratings but make the station sound distorted to regular listeners.

Used to be that engineers tried their best to make stations sound good ... with the best signal of any station in Western America, perhaps KFI could at least go back to broadcasting wideband AM stereo, if indeed management won’t turn the HD back on.
///

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #204

Radio: January 5, 2018

My grandmother listened to Hilly Rose for years on various radio stations; her enthusiasm for his show made me a fan too. I found his programs informative, educational, and entertaining ... one of the best of the first generation of talk shows as heard in Los Angeles.

Rose passed away December 27th of natural causes. He was 91.

Prior to his many years in Los Angeles, Rose perfected his craft in San Francisco at KCBS, KGO and KNEW; he was also heard (and seen) on Bay-area television station KTVU Channel 2.

Locally he was heard on KABC (790 AM) beginning in 1970. In 1972 he moved to KFI (640 AM) where he stayed until he left in 1979 for KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM). 1982 brought him back to KABC for a couple years; he retired in 1984.

KFI is the station I remember carrying his show. Being on in the late evening hours game him incredible reach: KFI is among the most powerful stations in the United States, and reaches much of the country at night. Rose effectively had a nationwide show with calls coming in from many of the contiguous 48 states.

One of his claims to fame is pushing support for the Jarvis-Gann initiative, better known as Proposition 13. Rose, talk host friend Ray Breim, and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner were early supporters of the proposition, and helped get people to talk about it.
Two years ago I mentioned Rose in this column; he reached out to me explaining his decision to retire.

“Thank you for remembering my name out of so many talk show hosts of the 70's and 80's,” he said. “I quit KABC in 1986 because I saw the great axe coming. 

“I started doing talk shows at KCBS in San Francisco in 1963; that is 23 years of discussing the same subjects repeatedly.

“I must point out that 52 years later we are still endlessly discussing abortion, immigration. race, crime, war (Vietnam, now middle-east), immigrants taking jobs from citizens ... the list goes on and on. Nothing is resolved, indeed in most cases the situation gets worse.

“I got tired of discussing the same things over and over again, and went into the specialty of paranormal. At least there  was always something new to talk about (with the exception of Roswell). That eventually led me into doing the Art Bell Coast to Coast AM show on over 600 radio stations.

“I finally quit radio last year [2014] after 52 wonderful years in broadcasting. Yes, the outlook is dreadful, but with all the new mediums available today, surely someone with "that certain fresh touch" will emerge. They always do.”

Sound Success

The last full ratings book for The Sound (now K-Love KKLQ, 100.3 FM) was quite impressive: the November ratings for all listeners aged 6 and over was 2.8, up more than half a point from October’s 2.2 and almost a point above September’s 2.0. The real news came from the demographic of Men aged 35-64, where the station’s numbers jumped s high they were a very close 2nd in the city. Nielsen rules prevent me from quoting exact numbers, but the increase from September was almost double in that demo between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

I think the time may be ripe for a new approach for The Sound. Here’s my plan:

Develop programs using The Sound DJs and make them available as podcasts ... but also market the package as a ready-to-air format for digital HD stations nationwide. Advertising can be split between national and local ads (if they want) kind of like cable TV does with some programming.
 
This would keep the format going and viable until a local station is found, takes the format into what some consider radio’s future, and adds the enticing bottom floor of HD signals actually being listened to by normal people. I believe The Sound could help sell HD radios, and ultimately could help make HD truly a success.

THEN we buy back 100.3 (and for me KHJ 930 AM so I can program top-40) and we are all set …

By the way, the December ratings just released had the Sound still running for 14-1/2 of the 28 rated days. Those 14 days were among the highest ratings the station ever had. Yet the overall results for December had 100.3 at a mere 1.2 share. If the new format crashed that far already, imagine how the new station will look with a full month.

Relying on listener support rather than ads, K-Love owners don’t truly care about ratings. But having few listeners may make donations hard to fetch. Just sayin’ ...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #203

Radio: December 29, 2017

Longtime Los Angeles radio personality Cliff Winston passed away December 19th due to a heart attack. He was 63.

His Los Angeles debut was in 1986 on KJLH (102.3 FM) where he stayed until he got an offer from the original 100.3 The Beat, KKBT in 1990. He returned to KJLH is ’93, went back to The Beat in 2006, and stayed through the transition to V-100 (KRBV). He remained at V-100 until the station was sold to Bonneville in 2008.

He was The Beat’s original morning man and acted as programmer for KJLH during his second tenure at the station owned by Stevie Wonder.

As with many in radio, his formative years were spent listening to legendary stations; growing up in Southern California, Winston told LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett that he spent many hours listening to KHJ (930 AM), the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) and KFWB (980 AM). He attended the University of Washington and began his radio career in Seattle, followed by St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Houston before finally landing at KJLH.

Garman Out

Catching up on old news, Ralph Garman left the morning Kevin and Bean show of the formerly relevant KROQ (106.7 FM). It appears that Entercom is still slashing the budgets that CBS didn’t already slash before the merger of the two companies. I give KROQ about a year before Entercom totally destroys what is left of the one-time trendsetting station. Garman’s last show was November 30; he had been with the station 18 years.

Objections

Two objections were filed December 18th against the pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Cumulus Media.

One came from Randy Michaels, the on-time leader of Clear Channel Communications, now known as iHeart Media. Michaels claims that Cumulus had agreed to purchase two stations from his company Merlin Media for $50 million, but that Cumulus is now trying to use the bankruptcy to negotiate a lower price.

How interesting that one of the architects of huge corporate McRadio, one who I credit with helping begin the breakdown of the industry is now protesting when it brings him down. Karma’s a ...

The second objection comes from a group of unsecured creditors who complain that the proposed deal hurts them in order to benefit the larger bondholders. Which it does.

Pirates

Scott Shannon’s Pirate Radio KQLZ launched on 100.3 FM in March of 1989; the station lasted just over four years until April, 1993 though it “jumped the shark” when Shannon left in mid-1991 and the station tried a hard-rock/heavy metal format that was badly beaten by the far better-programmed KNAC (now KBUA, 105.5 FM)

If you want to hear samples of the earlier years of the Pirate, head over to RadioDiscussions.Com and look in the Los Angeles section. Member SpiritOf67 has posted numerous airchecks of the era. The second-best part? How he obtained them.

“In 1990, I worked at a radio station as a producer, voiceover/production assistant, and board operator. When we ran programs off of the satellite, I would dial around some of the transponders to see what kind of programming was available. Several programs we carried were distributed through Westwood One. 

“Westwood One distributed the show ‘Pirate Radio USA’ which was based on Pirate Radio Los Angeles (KQLZ). In many instances the local feed of KQLZ/Pirate Radio would remain on after the show, giving board ops like me a chance to listen to the station (note--this was several years away from internet streaming, and hearing out of market stations like this was a rarity).”

He taped some of the feeds, giving a nice historical perspective of a station that made a huge splash for a while in Los Angeles. Recordings of Pirate Radio are exceedingly rare; I personally would love to get a copy of the show when Shannon spent the morning bashing me over what I wrote in my column ... funny stuff. I asked Shannon for a copy at the time and never got it; I think he was afraid I was going to use it against him not knowing that it was one of my favorite Pirate bits.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #202

Radio: December 22

For the 8th consecutive year, David Grudt -- a regular reader of this column -- is programming Sounds of the Season  that will once again be heard on Ken Borgers’ internet tribute to the original KNOB (now KLAX, 97.9 FM). You can find it at www.JazzKnob.org.

It’s a 36-hour program that starts at noon on December 24th, Christmas Eve and ends at Midnight on December 25th, Christmas day.
The show features jazz instrumental and vocal interpretations of holiday music favorites; a highlight of the annual program is a reading of the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the late, great LA Jazz DJ Chuck Niles, to be heard this year six times: noon and 6 p.m. December 24th; and at midnight, 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. December 25th.

JazzKnob.org harkens back to Sleepy Stein’s KNOB/Long Beach, playing mainstream jazz 24 hours a day. Stein was the owner of the original KNOB, launched in 1957 with just 320 watts at its original frequency of 103.1 FM. One year later, he was able to increase power to 79,000 watts by moving to a new frequency, 97.9. 

Stein sold the station in 1966; the new owners changed the format to MOR (Middle of the Road), Beautiful Music and eventually soft rock. In 1988, current owners changed it to 
Spanish; the format is now Regional Mexican music.

Howard Holiday

Howard Stern is taking some holiday vacation time away from his SiriusXM channels known as Howard 100 and Howard 101.

Since Midnight Eastern time on December 18th and running through New Year’s Day, Channel 100 is featuring Howard 100: The Interviews, described as the best (maybe all?) interviews Stern has aired over the past year. Included will be Adam Sandler, David Letterman, Robert Plant Jerry Seinfeld and more.

Then over on Channel 101, Stern is airing best-of 2017 segments that are not interviews. He’s calling it Howard 101: Everything Else.

I am a later fan of Stern’s; I actually could not understand the hype of his show back in the days when he was on traditional radio and often guesting on NBC Television’s Late Night with David Letterman. I think it had much to do with his making fun of celebrities that I really didn’t even care about. His appearances on Letterman left me thinking he was just a mean New Yorker.
  
When he came to town via KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM) I was unimpressed. So much that I wrote a review stating that he was so bad, he wouldn’t last. Then I heard his news hours with Robin Quivers. And I saw his movie Private Parts (my wife Jean was always a huge fan of his, so she dragged me to the movie which I found hilarious). 

I heard he and Quivers mock me and my column on the show. Eventually I heard his fans making it into coverage of actual news events on network and cable television stations; they would act as eyewitnesses to developing news stories leading the reporters along, and suddenly jump in with Howard-isms such as “bababooey” or some vulgar statement about Stern on the air. The idea was to prove how news reporters often don’t check sources.

Finally, I was hooked and I developed a huge respect for his program. Ironically, I can hear Stern in my truck because I have always had a Sirius subscription and now have SiriusXM All Access; my wife, the original fan who liked him years before I did, has an XM radio in her car that can’t get Channels 100 and 101. I think I better fix that.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #201

Radio: December 15, 2017

LA Oldies K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 digital HD2) has been moving up the ratings in spite of a signal that struggles to reach much of Los Angeles and little promotion. The latest Nielsen ratings had the station at 0.7 overall, and I am told that weekends are even more impressive.

Now you can show your support for the only station in town that focusses on early (earlier) rock and roll from the 1950s through the early 1970s. As announced on the K-SURF website:

“The long awaited L.A. Oldies K-Surf bumper stickers and window clings are here! If you'd like one, just send a self-addressed stamped envelope, along with whether you'd like the sticker or cling” to the station’s mailing address, L.A. Oldies 1260 K-Surf Promotions Department, PO Box 250028, Los Angeles, CA 90025.

Owner Saul Levine says the response has been strong. 

Talk Back

Lots of emails this week, most centering on KABC (790 AM). Could it be that the station’s signal is hurting ratings?

“First, thank you for your radio section, well done! Regarding KABC radio, it's my opinion that the reason that it has remained stagnant in the ratings is that the station doesn't come in Anywhere! Until recently this year, I'd travel to Tehachapi, Oxnard, Ventura and Palmdale often, listening to KABC, KRLA, and KFI, switching around. KABC just can't be heard well. 

“So I started wondering if that's an obvious reason they don't earn great ratings: people cannot hear the station!” -- Jillian Clark

That is certainly a possibility for at least part of the difference. But KABC dropped over the years with essentially the same signal notwithstanding the changes made in the past year when the station changed transmitter sites. So while it may be part of the problem, it isn’t all of it.

It seems there is not a lot of love for Jillian Barberie, co host with John Phillips on KABC’s afternoon The Drive Home, at least judging by the emails:

“I am hopeful that the announcer, Jillian, will soon not be a member of the Drive Home radio show on KABC. The reason is that her banter is shallow and does not add anything of value to the discussion.” -- Richard Greenblatt

“Couldn't agree more that Jillian is a real detriment to that time slot. I love, love, love John Phillips. But that bimbo is such an ignorant air head. When she starts commenting - usually totally with no apparent idea of what she's talking about - I just change stations. He’s GREAT; she's a total zero. Thanks for letting me vent.” -- Geri Morgan, La Habra, CA

“While I enjoy all your columns, none were as great as your recent take on removing Jillian Barberie from the Drive Home and let John Phillips do the show on his own. YES!!! I share that same sentiment, vehemently!!! SHE IS TIRESOME! I only listen, because I am such a fan of Phillips.

“She has a high opinion of her opinions, as ADHD surpasses any of her other despicable lack of manners and her over use of ‘I.’ When I can, I turn off every ad she reads; I have even gone to one of the advertisers to end my support. How are her bosses not aware of her continual rudeness of interrupting EVERY guest and John incessantly? In a word … she is boorish! I'm counting on your influence to reach the influential.” -- Mari

And finally, a letter of love for K-Love:

“Believe it or not, I’m not the only one out here loving K-LOVE:

“You have so many rock stations already – please don’t begrudge us our Christian music - It’s the only one we’ve got.” --Lynn Mead, Mission Hills

Missing Link

Last week’s mention of Wink Martindale on KFWB neglected to include the link to the recording. Sure you could have searched on Airchexx.Com, but this is easier: http://tinyurl.com/winkmartwb. Sorry for the omission.

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.