Monday, February 23, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #70

Cutbacks at several local stations have affected numerous on-air personalities.

Boyd R. Britton is a longtime newsman in Los Angeles radio, having spent time at KKDJ (now KIIS, 102.7 FM), KIIS-FM, Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM), KWST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) and KHTZ (now KAMP, 97.1 FM). In his earlier days, I remember him as the newsman on Charlie Tuna’s morning show on Ten-Q, where he was occasionally the subject of Tuna’s “Morning Wakeup Story” joke of the day.

More recently he’s been known as “Doc on the Roq” and part of the Kevin and Bean morning program on KROQ (106.7 FM). To thank him for his work over the past 27 years, station management cut him loose to cut costs on February 18th. The recipient of a Golden Mike in 1981, he’s an LA legend who will hopefully land on his feet.

She’s probably been on almost every shift at Go Country (KKGO, 105.1 FM) and most recently was paired with Larry Morgan in afternoon drive. With the station since 2008, Ginny Harman was coincidentally let go on February 18th as well. 

“If you know anyone looking for a fun, Harley-riding, cat-loving talent, please let me know!” she wrote to LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett. “Will back-sell for food!”

Over at KSPN (710 AM), Dave Joseph, Pete Fox and Beto Duran were all let go ... again on February 18th. The three were known as “update anchors,” giving sports updates throughout the day on various shows.

More changes may be coming at KSPN as the syndicated morning show of Mike (Greenberg) and Mike (Golic) is expected to move up the dial to KLAA (830 AM) starting March 2nd. Travis Rogers is supposedly moving from KLAA to KSPN mornings the same day joined by Kelvin Washington for the shortest morning show in America, 5-7 AM.

Of course no one really cares.

Ratings Shorts

In its last ratings period as an “old school” station, Hot 92.3 -- now called Real 92.3, KRRL -- earned its best ratings in years, 13th place at 2.6. The competitive baseline has been set: Real starts with Hot’s last share of 2.6 while competitor Power 106 starts the contest at 5th place and a 4.0 raring. The next few months should be interesting.

KFWB, which has struggled in the ratings since dropping news years ago, continues to struggle as a sports station ... last place in the ratings list at 0.2. About what I expected.

Maybe my plan to bring back top-40 on KHJ (930 AM) isn’t such a bad idea ... as religious talk, the station didn’t even make the list. 
KABC (790 AM) was up a tad to 0.7, reversing a long decline. KFI remained the king of talk, though, with a 3.3 share at 10th place. Perhaps the most surprising news came from KNX, which came in as the top-rated AM station in town: 8th place and a 3.4 rating, tied with The Sound.

And speaking of The Sound, this is the last survey prior to the arrival of new morning man Mark Thompson. Will Sound programmer Dave Beasing look like a genius if the ratings continue to build? Currently the station is at its highest point ever in its current incarnation. Pressure ... pressure.

Leading the pack in January? KOST (103.5 FM).


Weird that February 18th is the date again, but it was on that date in 1959 that Saul Levine launched KBCA using a used transmitter and a home-made antenna. The station later became KKGO and is still owned by Levine. That’s something to celebrate. Interestingly, in the history of the station, it has run only three formats: classical (twice), jazz, and country.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #69

Perhaps most of the world remembers him from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, which aired on NBC Television from 1968 to 1973. On that, he played the wacky announcer for the show “from beautiful downtown Burbank” with his hand constantly over his ear.

We, of course, knew him even better as the quick-witted, wacky, corny DJ on such stations as the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM), KPRZ (now KEIB, 1150 AM), KFI (640 AM) and of course KFWB (980 AM).
Gary Owens passed away on February 12 at the age of 80, surrounded by relatives at his home in Encino.

Don Barrett of LARadio.Com mentions in his book, Los Angeles Radio People, Volume 2, that Owens’ first radio job was prophetic in retrospect -- KORN in Michell, South Dakota. He sued his given name of Gary Altman until he landed at KOIL/Omaha, Nebraska two stations later.

He arrived in Los Angeles in 1961 after some time at sister station KEWB/San Francisco. Almost immediately, the the station went on strike and Owens was off the air -- he honored the striking newsmen. After the strike was settled, Owens moved into the morning slot and quickly became the top-rated morning show in Los Angeles, leading shortly to an offer from KMPC that he accepted. He remained at KMPC from 1962 until 1981.

In addition to his radio and television announcing, Owens was in cartoons -- both as a writer and characters (most famously Bullwinkle) -- and commercials. He created humorous radio station giveaways at some of his earlier stations including a two-piece jigsaw puzzle that is described by Barrett as still looking wrong after being assembled. Owens was also the host for the pilot episode of television’s The Gong Show and the host of that show’s first season in nighttime syndication.

He was a mentor and friend to many, including David Letterman who had written to Owens while a student at Ball State asking for advise about writing creative comedy. He even contributed to children’s television through his announcing and contributions to PBS Television’s Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is right next to Walt Disney, which I am sure made Owens happy. His quick wit, flawless timing and (when appropriate) deadpan seriousness will be missed throughout the broadcast industry. You can hear samples of his work on (small subscription donation required) and remembrance letters from fans and colleagues are available on www.LARadio.Com.

Quick Takes

Did anyone else take note of the fact that this year is not only the 50th birthday of the Boss Radio format on 93/KHJ (930 AM), it is also the 93rd year of broadcasting for the station that launched in 1922? 

Can’t get your fix of old school now that Hot 92.3 FM has become essentially unlistenable? You might see if you can pick up KQIE/Riverside (104.7 FM) ... they just picked up the Old School pop format. Makes sense ... Hot 92.3 was itself very popular in the Inland Empire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #68

Getting Real: Friday, February 6th marked the first local format change of the year as Hot 92.3 FM became Real 92.3, “the new home of Hip Hop and R&B for Los Angeles.” The change took place at 9:23 a.m. following the conclusion of the Hot 300 Countdown; after a prerecorded transitional segment in which comments were made such as “having the power” -- an obvious swipe at Power 106 -- Real launched with the playing of "Only" by Nicki Minaj.

All of the Hot jocks were let go: Jimmy Reyes, Damon Knight, Renee Taylor and Josefa Salinas. The station is currently running jockless, “rolling 10,000 joints in a row” commercial free. At least they have class.

Doc Wynter is the new programmer; he had previously been owner iHeartMedia’s senior vice president of Urban programming and is considered by some to be one of the best Urban programmers in the country. In Wynter’s sites: Power 106.

In order to go after Power, one of the first things done was to lure Power morning icon Kurt “Big Boy” Alexander down the dial. No word on when Alexander will start waking LA from his Real home, but if Power 106 owner Emmis has its way, it will be “never.”

Emmis claims that Alexander is in breach of contract by refusing to abide by the “right of first refusal” clause in his contract with the company. Emmis is seeking an injunction to prevent Alexander from moving to iHeartMedia as well as asking for millions of dollars in damages. One of Emmis’ claims, according to RadioInsite.Com: they discovered him and invested heavily in him and his career over the past 20 years, making him the star he is today.

That right of first refusal in an interesting one. The agreement stipulates that Emmis has the right to match a competitor’s offer of employment. Emmis did, but Alexander left anyway. What will need to be sorted out: Did a match automatically mean that Alexander had to stay? Also unsaid: Is the offer from iHeartMedia exactly the same, or were there other perks unmatched by Emmis? If allowed to move, will iHeart pull an iHeart and syndicate Big Boy’s Neighborhood? Did Emmis meet or beat? Finally, was there any indication that Alexander was unhappy with his situation?

My take: Alexander will be allowed to move. He will do mornings on Real. iHeart will destroy more small-market radio by syndicating the show. But in the end locally, it won’t make much difference ... Power has been THE Hip Hop station (OK, purists, I know that no radio station plays “real” Hip Hop) for more than 20 years.
iHeartMedia -- then known as Clear Channel -- has tried to compete with Power in the past -- using The Beat 92.3 -- but was unsuccessful. This time could be different, but I sincerely doubt it will. If it IS successful, maybe we’ll see Chuck Martin bring back true top-40 on K-West 106 ...

Hey, I can dream.

Valentine’s Day Bliss

Always the romantic, internet talk host Tom Leykis (www.BlowMeUpTom.Com) is offering listeners discounts on flowers from ProFlowers.Com or gourmet dipped fancy strawberries from Berries.Com. With a twist.

Leykis, married and divorced four times, wrote this in an email to listeners: “Your Professor is absolutely opposed to marriage, relationships and living together. Let there be no doubt: if there is any way to avoid giving anyone the key to your front door, money, copies of your ATM or credit cards, or your DNA for child creation, you must absolutely avoid that.

“Your Professor also believes that dating is for (one thing) only ... You don't want to be paying your date's bills, helping her out, or showering her with attention and gifts. The more you give, the higher you set the expectation bar, the less respect you get in return.

“Your Professor also knows that, for many listeners, that ship has already sailed. Many of you have already selected a girlfriend or a wife (while secretly wishing you hadn't) and a large number of you are married or have kids.”

Speaking to the offers, which are actually available through other radio and online sources, Leykis explains, “These gifts are so good that it will look as if you really care, when all you really did was log onto a website and insert our promo code, your address, and your credit card number. Five minutes and you're DONE without having to think about it! 

“Give her the impression that you still care while you secretly support your friends at The New Normal.”

And isn’t that what love is all about?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #67

KNX (1070 AM), KFI (640 AM), and KPCC (89.3 FM) were the big winners this year as the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California handed out this year’s Golden Mike awards January 24th. Both KNX and KFI earned seven Golden Mikes each, while KPCC (89.3 FM) was right behind with six.

The awards are presented annually by the RTNA, a non-profit organization representing broadcast newsrooms -- radio and television -- in Southern California. Stations from as far away as Fresno to the North and the Mexican border to the South compete for the coveted awards. Obviously large stations that concentrate on news and features would tend to dominate the awards as did our leading three. But there were some smaller stations involved, and one that may surprise you.

KFI won in the categories of Best Radio News Special (Breaking Down the Border Crisis), Best Radio Investigative Reporting (Mold School), Best Light Feature - less than one minute (Valentine’s Day Flower Inspection), Best Radio Serious Feature - less than one minute (Operation Boo), Best Radio Hard News Feature (Trial of Jailed Marine in Mexico), Best Radio Internet Reporting (Operation Boo) and Best Radio Newscast Under 15 Minutes (6 O’Clock News).
KNX won with Best Live Coverage of a News Story (LAX Shooting), Best News Reporting (Nanny Nightmare), Best Spot News Reporting (The Great UCLA Flood of 2014), Best News Public Affairs Program (Ask the Mayor), Best Traffic Report (KNX Traffic at 6:15 a.m.), Best Sports Reporting (Watts Bears), and Best News Broadcast Over 15 Minutes (KNX Morning News).

KPCC earned awards for Best feature News Series Reporting (The Northridge Earthquake: 20 Years Later), Best Serious Feature Reporting - one minute or longer (Friday Nights at DCFS), Best Consumer and Business Reporting (The Price of Pain), Best Government and Political Reporting (Bell Keeps Paying Rizzo Tax), Best medical and Science Reporting (Geologists Dream Unearthed by the 405 Construction), and Best Use of Sound (Everything You Didn’t Know About Bats in Los Angeles).

Cal Lutheran’s KCLU (88.3 FM, 1340 AM) came away with five awards, including Best Entertainment Reporting (The Fifth Beatle), Best Use of Sound - Div. B (Musical Visionary), Best News Broadcast Under 15 Minutes - Div. B (7 a.m. News with Jim Rondeau), Best Sports Reporting - Div. B (No Pro Football in LA, No Problem!), and Best News Reporting - Div. B (Dangerous Pipelines? Fear on Campus).
KVPR/Fresno earned three awards, one for Best Investigative Reporting - Div. B (One Year After the Rim Fire), Best Light Feature Reporting - one minute or longer (Dreaming Up Spanish Language Theater in Fresno), and Best Business and Consumer Reporting - Div. B (Self Driving Cars Uee Merced as Landing Pad).

KLAA (830 AM) won for Best News Public Affairs Program (Community Cares); KCSN (88.5 FM) won for Best News Broadcast Over 15 Minutes - Div. B (The Evening Update); KSPC (88.7 FM) won for Best medical and Science Reporting - Div. B (How to e-Save a Life) and K-Beach (KJAZ 88.1 HD3) won for Best Individual Writing (Hi-Definition News Feature: 15 Seconds of Confusion).
Those last two awards are in some ways the most impressive. While the list of award-winners includes stations located on college campuses, only two are actual college stations and broadcast using students rather than paid professionals. The fact that both KSPC and K-Beach won Golden Mikes using programming created, produced, and presented by students is in my mind, worthy of celebrating.
Congratulations, though, are well-deserved to all Golden Mike winners!


Not sure if my column had anything to do with it, but KABC (790 AM) took what I advised and ran with it. Mark Levin is no longer associated with the talk station; in his place is Peter Tilden (hopefully told to run wild as I said previously) in Levin’s former 6-9 p.m. weekday slot, followed from 9 to midnight by Dennis Miller, who moves down the dial from KRLA (870 AM).

Where s Levin? No longer on tape delay, he can be heard live on KRLA 3 to 6 p.m. That should be good news for his local fan. Hugh Hewett, formerly heard 3-6, will now follow Levin at 6 p.m.