Monday, August 25, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #47

Longtime NBC announcer Don Pardo, who passed away August 18 at the young age of 96, was perhaps best known for his television work on such shows as Saturday Night Live and the original version of Jeopardy starring Art Fleming as host.
But he began his broadcasting career, almost by accident, in radio. You see, he wasn’t supposed to be an announcer. He was supposed to be a baker, like his father, and take over the family business. Or a dentist. Or an actor in the theater.
Radio was the job he took so he could support his family. First as an announcer for WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1944 he traveled to New York to take a tour of the National Broadcasting Company studios where he met Patrick J. Kelly, NBC’s supervisor of announcers. Kelly liked Pardo’s voice and hired him to be a staff (booth) announcer on NBC. His first day at NBC was June 15, 1944; his first duties included handling the late shift along with some wartime reporting.
According to David Schwartz, one of broadcasting’s unofficial historians (and who can be found working at cable television’s Game Show Network), among Pardo’s first assignments were voicing the network cues (“This is the National Broadcasting Company,” etc.) for the radio series Hour of Charm. “During the 1940s, his voice was frequently heard delivering the news for NBC Radio; in his 70 year association with NBC, Pardo’s voice has been heard on hundreds of radio and television programs,” Schwartz told me.
Radio programs from the 1940s and ‘50s included The Three Suns, a big band remote; Let’s Go Nightclubbing; The Catholic Hour; The Magnificent Montague; and Dimension X, among others.
Let’s Go Nightclubbing is one of the more interesting radio programs to me, because it essentially is Pardo as the live announcer (sounding very DJ-ish) as he introduces singers and big bands live from Club Zanzibar in Manhattan. If you’d like to hear a sample for yourself, point your web browser to, and scroll down to the Tribute to Don Pardo on “Same Time, Same Station.” If it’s not there, click on the archives button.
Pardo is said to have been one of two people at NBC with a lifetime contract, the other being Bob Hope. Pretty good company, if you asked me. In the meantime, I’m going to go watch some more Fleming Jeopardy episodes on YouTube. Don: Thanks for all the great memories. You will be missed.
Off by Two
Last week I mentioned that there was only one remaining simulcast of an AM station on an FM signal’s HD digital stream. Reader Mike Dangott write to chastise me for forfeiting two others:
“As one of the few with an HD radio, I disagree with your count of AM radio stations rebroadcast on digital FM. My radio receives THREE! KABC (790 AM) on KLOS 95.5 FM HD2, KNX (1070 AM, as you mentioned) on KAMP 97.1 FM HD2, and KMTZ (1260 AM) on KKGO 105.1 FM HD2.”
Mike is right ... and I have no clue how I forgot the others; it’s not like I have not mentioned them before. But the point is still valid ... not every AM is on FM.
Another (Yawn) Sports Station
Maggie McKay and Michael Shappee signed off the news/talk format on KFWB (980 AM) last Friday night at 7:00. During their last few hours they payed tribute to the history of the station, from the days of Chuck Blore’s “Color Radio” through the transition to news, and finally sports. You can find some of the clips on the KFWB website ( including some old jingles ... one sung by Beach Boy Brian Wilson!
At 7 PM Friday, the station ran with NBC Sports; the weekend was the usual paid huckster programming. It’s all sports now, the fourth such station in town.
Sell it. Now.
They say it’s in a trust, but the fact is: CBS owns KFWB illegally. They have for over ten years, since buying KCAL Channel 9, putting them over the legally-allowed number of stations in Los Angeles. 
I am publicly calling for the commissioners of FCC to do their job for a change and force the sale of KFWB once and for all. CBS has stalled long enough, and if a sale is not forced, I will be calling on Congress to investigate the FCC commissioners for allowing CBS to hold onto a property that they were to have sold a decade ago. Is a reverse form of Payola involved? This time to the FCC? Can someone explain why CBS is allowed to break the law?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #46

AM radio -- America’s oldest broadcasting service -- was dealt another blow by automaker BMW when the company decided to leave AM totally out of the car stereo that comes in the new all electric i3.
According to numerous sources, the decision was made after interference from the electric drive system made AM reception difficult. “Rather than frustrate customers with inferior reception, the decision was made to leave it off,” BMW spokesman Dave Buchko told Automotive IT News, an online industry website (

Considering that AM is alive and well on all other electric cars and hybrids from such manufacturers as General Motors, Toyota, Tesla, and Nissan, just to name a few, and I’d say it has more to do with lousy engineering on the part of BMW. We’re not talking rocket science here; to get AM reception you do need to do some work. But if you can’t shield the radio and antenna from the motor, as all other manufacturers are able to do, what else is BMW unable to do successfully on this car?

In fact, if AM reception is such a problem, does it mean the motor in the i3 emits so much interference that it will negatively affect AM reception for radios it drives near? That would be illegal and the FCC should investigate the possibility.

BMW’s continued explanation that AM is not needed because the FM radio includes HD and many AM stations are simulcast on the FM HD streams shows they know even less about broadcasting than I thought. In Los Angeles, that number is a whopping one: KNX (1070 AM), which can be found on KAMP’s (97.1 FM) HD3 stream. At one time KFWB (980 AM) was on a KCBS-FM (93.1) HD channel, but that is now gone (though it may return once KFWB goes all sports in September).

Want KFI (640 AM)? KABC (790 AM)? Sports? Live baseball? Too bad, if you own an i3.

Don’t get me wrong ... while I am an AM fan, I am not a fan of much of the current programming. But that doesn’t mean it should be kicked to the side as BMW is doing through their sloppy engineering. I’m still hoping for an AM renaissance of sorts, once the huge conglomerates go bust and have to sell their stations ... once I own my own AM station, I want people to have the ability to listen.

Step by Step

The first huge company to start unloading stations is the Walt Disney Company, which announced last week that it will sell 23 of its 24 Radio Disney AM properties beginning September 26, leaving KDIS (1110 AM) here in Los Angeles as its only AM radio outlet. The company instead will focus on internet and SiriusXM satellite radio (Channel 79) delivery.

Most observers are mourning the announcement and the loss of jobs. I see it as the first in what will hopefully be a gush of such sales on both AM and FM. Once the McOwners groups are out of the way, I hope that creativity and strong localism will return to radio. Then the number of jobs will be a net increase when formats that actually attract listeners evolve.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast: Special Edition - Legendary LA Radio Personality J.J. Johnson

LA radio legend J.J. Johnson, author of Aircheck: Life in Music Radio, shares his life and career with Mike Stark & radio columnist Richard Wagoner in this extended interview.

Radio Waves Podcast #45

August 15, 2014
George Nicholaw, best known for his work as General Manager of KNX (1070 AM), passed away on Saturday August 9th at his home. He was 86.
He started his tenure with CBS -- The Columbia Broadcasting System as it was known at the time -- in 1955. In 1967 he was named General Manager of CBS Radio’s KNX; in 1968 he oversaw the station’s move to all news from it’s previous format of news and entertainment-oriented programs.
He remained as manager at the station until 2003, the longest tenure of any manager of any news station in the United States.
It was not an amicable separation, however. Infinity Broadcasting, which had bought CBS Radio and its radio stations previously (later the company would take on the CBS Radio name again), brought Patrick Duffy into a new position at the station: vice president and marketing manager for KNX and sister station KRTH. Nicholaw’s position was then eliminated, though he was offered another position at a lower salary.
Instead of accepting the lower position, Nichlaw sued Infinity Broadcasting, claiming age discrimination. He lost the suit when an LA Superior Court judge concluded that there was no case.
During his long run as GM, KNX was one of the most honored news stations in the industry with more awards per year than any other. Over 170 Golden Mike Awards, the Peabody Award, the National Association of Broadcaster’s Crystal Award, any many more.
He also kept up the tradition of daily editorials, once a mainstay of radio but seldom heard after the beginning of deregulation. Nicholaw believed they were important and kept them on the air -- voiced by himself -- until he left the station in 2003. I don’t believe the station has aired an editorial since.
Don Barrett of LARadio.Com says that Nicholaw was “one of the smartest and nicest Los Angeles Radio People ever.” Barrett dedicated the August 11th edition of LARadio.Com to Nicholaw’s memory; it includes a tribute and a fascinating look at Nicholaw and KNX as an all-news powerhouse. My favorite Nicholaw quote:
“I formatted the station in my own mind to follow a newspaper. A food section was part of a newspaper and there was a drama section. You name it and I tried to do it. I even had a horoscope. We were journalists and I figured that whatever a newspaper was doing we ought to be doing the same damn thing. That’s how that started. The food news hour started with Mike Roy and Denny Bracken.”
You can still read the tribute in the site’s archives.
Rich Retirement
Rich “Brother” Robbin, who made his name in Los Angeles on K-100 (KIQQ, now KSWD 100.3 FM), Ten Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) and KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7) as well as in San Diego via KCBQ (1070 AM) and others, has decided to hang up his headphones permanently. His retirement from San Diego’s XHPRS (The Walrus, 105.7 FM) was effective August 8th.
Robbin is a tremendously talented DJ and programmer, and his retirement is well-deserved. Still, it is a sad reminder of what radio once was and is rarely now: exciting, professional, and competitive.
True to form, Robbin is positive about his retirement. “When you get to this point in life you change ... emotions shift ... I began to see what mattered and what didn't, and what matters now is more time with friends, the beach (both walking and sitting), sometimes doing nothing but for sure, no more radio,” he told me.
His flashback internet station RichBroRadio.Com continues for now, but it’s month to month, he says. Speaking of which, you might got there now ... while you still can. It’s a fun oldies stream with classic jingles to match.
August 8, 2014
Blood Drive Success
KLOS (95.5 FM) had another hugely successful blood drive at the end of July. The five-day event collected almost 8000 (I am told it was just shy of 7900) units of blood at 20 locations throughout Southern California.
This is the 33rd year KLOS has hosted the drive, and is consistently one of the country’s most successful drives of its type anywhere.
Openings at KFWB
Perhaps the new all sports format won’t necessarily be the awful CBS Sports Radio syndicated format everyone, including me, is predicting for KFWB (980 AM) when they change this coming September. Employment opportunities included, among other things, on-air talent (at least as of press time) at Would be nice to see a local focus at least part of the day.
It was 33 years ago when MTV -- Music Television -- made its debut on cable companies across America. The exact date was August 1st, 1981.
For those under 40, MTV once played what was called “music videos.” Hosted by “VJs” Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Martha Quinn (all of whom can be found on SiriusXM’s “80s on 8” Channel 8) and the late, great JJ Jackson, the channel quickly became a trendsetter for music, breaking both songs and new bands.
I’m not sure anyone seriously thought MTV would “kill” radio, though the first song played on the network was the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” What happened instead is that MTV either helped or was part of a resurgence of top-40 radio. Across the country, stations like KIIS-FM (102.7) started dominating the ratings just as MTV was taking flight. Coincidence? Probably not.
For the same reason that a format paradox often exists in radio, in which two competing stations actually build an audience together that is higher for both than each station would do in a format exclusively, MTV brought attention back to popular music after years of decline in the popularity of top-40.
And since interest in popular music was on the rise due to the popularity of music videos on MTV as well as local shows ... but you could not take your TV in your car or to school ... radio was able to capitalize and build on that popularity. KIIS set FM ratings records for the era, all the while competitors such as KIQQ (now KSWD, 100.3 FM) and alternative stations such as KROQ (106.7 FM) did quite well too. It was a fun time for both music and radio. Not necessarily cause and effect, mind you, but they MTV and radio did seem to help each other.
Unfortunately, MTV is nothing more than a stomping ground for half-baked reality programs these days. And traditional top-40 radio -- the type that plays the best of all popularity musical genres? Dead as a doornail. Weird ...
Neil Saavedra -- host of KFI’s (640 AM) Fork Report and The Jesus Show -- has been named assistant programmer of the top-rated talk station, reporting to Program Director Robin Bertolucci.