Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #23

Two new talk shows may help make for an interesting battle between format leader KFI (640 AM) and rejuvenated original talker KABC (790 AM).
KABC’s “Mid Day L.A.” began on the President’s Day holiday last Monday and pairs together Jillian Barberie and John Phillips. The two had done a impromptu trial run a while ago last year as fill-ins for morning man Doug McIntyre, This time they take over the 12 noon to 3 p.m. slot left open when Sean Hannity’s program moved from KABC over to KEIB (1150 AM) in January. Phillips had been handling the shift himself while KABC management decided what to to.
Barberie will be familiar to television viewers as the longtime -- 18 years -- co-host of KTTV Channel 11’s “Good Day LA,” as well as working with the Fox NFL Pre-game Show for about a decade. Phillips was the youngest major-market talk host when he joined KABC, and has spent most of his time working various shifts in the morning as the station tried to figure out what to do with him ... and the station.
This takes KABC, as they say, live and local throughout most of the day, sans traffic reports that originate in Dallas, Texas in case you wondered why the traffic reporters cannot pronounce local street names. And it also gives the station a viable format for the first time in years, at least from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Doug McIntyre and Terri-Rae Elmer in the morning, Bryan Suits at 9, Mid Day L.A. at noon, and Larry Elder at 3 p.m. It isn’t until Mark Levin at 6 p.m. that KABC loses it, and by that time most people are eating dinner and switching to television or KFI’s Tim Conway, Jr.
For their part, KFI added a show I didn’t think it would add. After moving Limbaugh to KEIB, the station expanded and shifted some programs slightly, leaving an opening in the afternoon from 1-3. As owner Clear Channel has been pressuring local management to cut costs, most observers, myself included, figured they’d just expand Bill Carroll and John and Ken by an hour each to cover it.
Instead, they paired up Mark Thompson and Elizabeth Espinosa for what the station is calling “Thompson and Espinosa.” The pair started on February 10th.
When I first heard of the program my thought was of Thompson from Mark and Brian fame. Wrong Thompson ... this is the television version, former nightly weather anchor and environmental reporter from KTTV Channel 11’s evening Fox 11 News.
Espinosa is the host of “Sin Limites” on cable television’s CNN Latino, and has also done reporting with KTTV on the Fox 11 Morning News and Good Day L.A. I am sensing somewhat of a trend here ... I guess KTTV is now the training ground for talk radio ...
This move finalizes KFI’s change to all local programming outside of the overnight Coast to Coast AM that airs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. And it adds to a strong lineup that includes Bill Handel, Carroll, John and Ken, and Conway. So any thoughts of KABC overtaking KFI any time soon are perhaps a pipe dream.
But for the first time in years, there is actual competition between the two talkers, and one might notice that both stations are moving sway from the political talk that was their image for a long time. Suddenly, talk radio became interesting again ... I may have to break my self-imposed ban of the format and give the stations a longer listen. 
Hutchinson Report
KTYM’s (1460 AM) Hutchinson Report often tackles issues that other shows ignore. February 14th, host Earl Ofari Hutchinson conducted an interview with Dr. Robert K. Ross, chairman of the California Endowment, in which the topic of an education achievement gap was discussed.
“Dr. Ross brought out some issues that not even I was aware of,” Hutchinson said in a press release. “The poor school performance of many African-American and Hispanic males is tied into the health care crisis that currently exists in our communities. As these students get passed along there begins a process of doubt that gets imbedded in their mind. This leads to poor eating habits along with a hostile environment that too often leads to incarceration, even death."
Hear the Report Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on KTYM.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #22

Chuck Cecil and K-Jazz (KKJZ, 88.1 FM) have parted ways. His Swingin’ Years program that highlights Big Bands, began on KFI (640 AM) in 1956 and has been on the air in Los Angeles ever since, though the stations carrying the program have changed through the years.
According to a story printed in the Los Angeles Times, Cecil says he decided to leave the station because of technical problems producing the show, along with his feeling that it is time to start winding down the program that he’s produced himself for more than 50 years. “It really hurts me to stop, but I feel I can’t continue and do justice to the musicians who made the music,” he told the Times.
Only one problem: the show isn’t actually going away, as he will still produce it for WPPB/Long Island, and it will still be available via WPPB’s internet stream Sundays at 5 PM locally, at http://peconicpublicbroadcasting.org. So I’m not quite sure what to make of the departure from KKJZ.
Regardless, K-Jazz has already found a replacement in the name of legendary broadcaster Johnny Magnus. Magnus will preside over the K-Jazz airwaves Saturday and Sunday mornings -- beginning February 15 -- from 6-10 playing the same style of big band music from the swing era that Cecil played for so many years.
Of course the big question remains: will Magnus bring back Weather with a Beat? We’ll have to tune in to find out.
Inland Empire Limbaugh
At the risk of receiving the rash of emails chastising me for saying anything about Rush Limbaugh, Salem Communications announced last week that the syndicated talk host has a new home in the Inland Empire on its KTIE (590 AM), aka The Answer ... though many in the area fondly remember when 590 was the local top-40 giant KFXM.
The move came about due to Clear Channel’s decision to move Limbaugh from KFI -- which reaches from Mexico to Fresno during the day and covers half the United States at night -- to KEIB (1150 AM) -- which reaches somewhere across the street from its transmitter site. That left Limbaugh fans in the Inland Empire unable to hear their favorite show until now; KTIE carries the program weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
Changes in HD
A few weeks ago I happened to catch a very interesting format on The Sound’s (100.3 FM) HD-3 digital sub channel. An eclectic mix of songs that I found quite pleasing. Turns out it was just filler supplied by station Chief Engineer Terry Grieger, who utilized an automation system he had on his computer to fill the time until a new lessee took over the programming just a day or two later. The HD-3 signal now carries foreign-language programming, moving the Mormon Church programming formerly heard on the HD-3 stream to HD-4. Of course only a handful of us with HD Radio tuners can hear any of this.
Over on KCBS-FM’s HD-2, you can now hear the CBS Sports Radio format, which is about as bad of a sports format as I have ever heard. Not just in content, but in engineering, with sound levels so inconsistent I thought I was listening to a test.
Of course that’s what it is, essentially. Amp Radio, now on KAMP (97.1 FM) was once an HD stream. CBS wants to make their new sports radio format viable, and whether or not it ever makes it to a “regular” signal locally (it is available in other cities already) or it stays on HD, it will evolve. For now it’s kind of neat to listen to a station that only a few of us with HD Radios can hear.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #21

Chris Carter knows just about everything there is to know about the Beatles. As host of Breakfast With The Beatles, heard every Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon on KLOS (95.5 FM), he has to.
It’s not something you can fake; it has to be in your heart. And it is definitely in Carter’s heart.
He has been hosting the show since 2001 when he took over following the death of original host, Dierdre O’Donoghue, who launched the program in November of 1983. What started as an idea to just play some Beatles records as a fun diversion on Sunday mornings (originally on KMET, now KTWV 94.7 FM) has evolved into the longest-running Beatles program anywhere, playing not just a few records but rarities ... and the stories and trivia behind the songs, the band, and the fans.
Carter has taken the program and made it his own, though he doesn’t quite see it that way. “I’m just the host of the program, much like Jay Leno and now Jimmy Fallen are hosts of The Tonight Show on NBC-TV,” he says humbly.
Yet under his guidance, the program has expanded its scope to include rare records, bootlegs, interviews and much more, as opposed to the original focus on playing commercial releases. He does the program live every Sunday and shows no signs of being burned out on the concept.
“I take the songs and put them into perspective,” he tells me after I ask him how he keeps the program fresh. “Using the music, I try to tell a story, follow a theme, place the music into a certain context, and keep it timely.”
Trivia and fascinating facts tied to people, places and dates in history are a huge part of the program’s appeal, something which Carter says he enjoys.
This week’s program will be particularly interesting on that front, as Breakfast celebrates the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in the United States to appear on CBS Television’s Ed Sullivan Show February 9th. In fact, Breakfast this Sunday will feature audio from the entire Sullivan show of February 9th, 1964 ... including commercials. “Commercials help keep the historical perspective accurate,” Carter says.
Fascinating facts regarding the appearance? Turns out that the performance on Sullivan was coincidentally the three-year anniversary of The Beatles’ first live concert at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, February 9th, 1961. And the third appearance on Sullivan later in 1964 was actually the first one performed ... it was a taped recording of the afternoon dress-rehearsal at CBS studios in New York.
Carter has every Beatles album -- including those released on real to real tape -- ever made. Commercial releases, bootlegs, imports ... all. Multiple copies in most cases, part of his collection of music from all artists that includes vinyl records numbering close to 7000. And that’s after he cleaned out the duds. His collection of Beatles records began in earnest when he owned a record store in Wayne, New Jersey.
But The Beatles are not his only interest. He’s been in a band himself, one that KROQ (106.7 FM) and Alt 98.7 FM fans will know: Dramarama. Their alternative hit Anything Anything is still popular 28 years after its 1986 release. He produced a critically-acclaimed film that told the story of KROQ personality Rodney Bingenheimer, The Mayor of Sunset Strip. He’s managed bands. But from what I can tell, his first love is The Beatles.
“My first album I bought, when I was about seven, was Rubber Soul.” In an interview with Riprense.com, he explained how at every birthday, every holiday, he would ask for another Beatles album. From there, he says, it just took off.
Carter’s version of Breakfast With The Beatles is good enough to have Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney as listeners and contributors: both have called in to the show in the past. And the program has now been around long enough to out-live two of the three stations on which it has been carried: KMET where it originated, and KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM) where it moved in 1987. KLOS has been running the program since 2006.
In addition to Breakfast, Carter has a program on SiriusXM’s Underground Garage (Channel 21) focussing on the music from the more general British Invasion. Hear that program at 6 a.m. -- rebroadcast at 9 p.m. -- Sundays.