Friday, December 27, 2013
Former KFI (640 AM) talk host Bryan Suits made his KABC (790 AM) debut on Dec. 16, replacing local host John Phillips and the syndicated Geraldo Rivera with his 9 a.m. to noon weekday shift.
His first week was perhaps a little tentative, not quite up to the level I am used to with Suits. But I believe that is due to getting his feet wet at KABC and trying out an entirely different shift than what he had at KFI, which was most recently weekends and previously included evenings. But the topics were local, Suits is a pro, and I believe his hiring was a great decision on the part of KABC management.
In fact, just having Rivera gone makes mornings that much better. I expect Suits to work out quite well. But the move begs the question: what of John Phillips?
Phillips is one of the best hosts in Los Angeles when it comes to rationally discussing conservative-leaning politics. His KABC show was a nice alternative to KFI’s syndicated “Rush Limbaugh Show” when they both aired in the same time slot. It was the cutting of Phillips’ show to one hour and the addition of Rivera to the lineup that destroyed any chance KABC had of competing with KFI.
Yes, Suits is a great addition, but if it means losing Phillips, the net effect on KABC will be negligible. That is unless Phillips is given, for example, the noon to 3 p.m. shift. In fact, if KABC had a weekday lineup of Doug McIntyre (with more serious news coverage), Suits, Phillips and Larry Elder, that would be a fairly solid way to start the new year. The station still would be stuck with Mark Levin — his contract still has time to run — but perhaps someone like former KFI host Joe Crummey could be brought back to town to take over at 6 p.m.
Levin could then be switched to a slot after midnight when his low ratings won’t count against the station in overall calculations; Nielsen does not measure listening between midnight and 6 a.m.
Perhaps KTLK (1150 AM) host Stephanie Miller could be tried out in the evening? With KTLK’s upcoming change to conservative talk, she’s certainly available. If I was a programmer, I’d consider trying to convince Tom Leykis to come back to the traditional airwaves; his talents would add much to KABC. Or how about KFWB (980 AM) newsman Phil Hulett, whose podcast “Phil Hulett and Friends” is ready-made for a station that wants to compete?
KFI is formidable competition, and it will take a steady programming hand and smart promotion, along with some engineering improvements, to truly make a dent in its armor. Does KABC management have the guts to do so? Time will tell.
This being the last column of 2013, I want to wish you a very happy and healthy new year. If you have story ideas, questions about the whereabouts of a radio personality, a station you want to know more about, or just want to tell me about your love of radio, I’d like to hear from you. I’ll try to include as many ideas and letters in the column throughout 2014.
Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro freelance writer covering radio in Southern California. Send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.