Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #44

There have been rumors of a change to KFWB (980 AM) for a long time.
Owner CBS has an all-sports syndicated format with no LA home -- though you can hear it on an HD digital radio if you 93.1 HD2 -- and the almost un-rated KFWB was one of a handful of stations rumored to pick up the format if CBS management ever was stupid enough, er, wanted to put it on station more people could hear.
If you haven’t heard CBS Sports Radio on the HD signal, I can give you a one word summary: awful. The hosts are bad, the production values are bad, and the star of the format -- Jim Rome -- has been irrelevant for years. His show is so burnt that the flame can do no more.
So perhaps it makes sense for CBS to kill off what was left of the once-proud KFWB once and for all. According to reliable sources, the current format will be gone by early September and replaced by CBS Sports Radio.
Few people will mourn the loss of KFWB circa the last few years. The once proud station that was known for top-40 in the 1960s as “Color Radio,” then as all-news beginning in 1968 has been on life support since dropping all-news in 2009 to become news/talk ... news in drive time but mostly uninspired talk shows the balance of the day and leased access on weekends.
Until the news/talk format made its debut five years ago, it was often ahead of sister KNX (1070 AM) in the news format ratings. Ratings tanked after the change, culminating with the most recent rating of 0.2 to 0.3, meaning that only about 0.3 percent of the radio audience in Los Angeles tunes to KFWB on average. So, no, few people will care.
But is sports the way to go? Hardly. There are already three all-sports formats that are hardly lighting the ratings world on fire in Los Angeles: KLAC (570 AM), KSPN (710 AM), and KLAA (830 AM); four if you count XEPRS (1090 AM) out of Mexico which comes in almost as strong as a local. The combined ratings for the current four? 2.4. Can Los Angeles support a fifth all-sports format, especially one as bad as CBS Sports Radio? And more importantly, will anyone care?
Ownership Problem
And yet a bigger question looms large: Why is CBS being allowed to change the format anyway, instead of having to sell it outright? The station is run by a trust because CBS bought KCAL-TV Channel 9 twelve years ago, putting the company over the ownership limit of eight radio and television stations, with a maximum of two televisions within that eight.
In Los Angeles, CBS owns television channels 2 and 9 along with radio stations KNX, KFWB, KCBS-FM (93.1), KTWV (94.7 FM), KAMP (97.1 FM), KRTH (101.1 FM), and KROQ (106.7 FM) ... for a total of nine. With the weakest signal, KFWB is the logical one to sell, which is why CBS -- years later -- finally placed it in a trust. But for twelve years they have held onto a station that should have been sold exactly twelve years ago. I also know that there have been offers, but CBS turned them down. What is going on here? Why isn’t the FCC doing its job? What politics is CBS playing to illegally remain over the limit?
More on both issues in a future column, along with what might happen to some of the better current shows.
KHJ Finding Religion
Liberman Broadcasting has reached an agreement to sell KHJ (930 AM) to Immaculate Heart Catholic Radio for about $10 million. Immaculate Heart will begin broadcasting religious programming in October.
I was concerned that the we might lose the legendary call letters again, but it seems my fears are unfounded. According to Immaculate Heart listener relations representative Laura Bissonnette, the founder of the network grew up listening to 93/KHJ and even promised to eventually sing the historic jingle on the air. “The call letters will remain,” she said. That’s good news.
I wonder if they would lease time during some overnight hour so I could recreate top-40 KHJ some time ...

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