Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #92

KNX (1070 AM) recently won three awards for editorial excellence from the Los Angeles Press Club at its 57th Southern California Journalism Awards dinner held in late June at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
Programming (as well as producers and anchors) that won the awards included Investigative, for “Running on Empty: Our Epic Drought” (Charles Feldman and Laraine Herman; News/Feature Short Form, for “Ed Begley’s Not Running on Empty” (Chris Sedens); and Talk/Public Affairs, for the continuing program “Ask the Mayor” (Charles Feldman, Tom Haule, Jonathan Serviss, Diane Dray, and Logan Moy).
KNX celebrated its 47th anniversary in April and has been serving Southern California for 93 years.
Digital Mozart 
I had read in the trades that K-Mozart (KMZT, 1260 AM) had started broadcasting using HD digital radio streams in addition to the regular analog signal most people hear. 
At first I thought it was a mistake since I could not even receive the text data that shows up on an HD radio receiver prior to you being able to hear the improved signal quality.
It turns out I was just too far from the transmitter, which is located deep in the San Fernando Valley. As I traveled recently to Studio City, I was finally able to hear it for myself. And it sounds impressive.
Keeping in mind that my ears are novices when it comes to classical, I thought the HD signal sounded superb. No noise, clear highs, and an overall sound that I considered superior to that found on the 105.1 HD2 simulcast. If I lived locally, that’s how I would listen; those like me further away would either need to listen to analog or the FM HD simulcast.
This “listening test” came about the same time that a report was released studying the feasibility of an all-digital AM band. I asked KMZT owner Saul Levine his thoughts on the issue. It’s a risky venture, as all digital would make the vast majority of AM radios obsolete.
“I believe the future of AM radio is full HD digital operation,” he told me enthusiastically. “I am prepared to go all HD at least part time in the future.” It appears that the broadcasting maverick -- he launched one of the earliest FM stations in Los Angeles back in 1958 -- is still a maverick. 
Yet over at KFI (640 AM) the HD signal has been of for close to a month. I tried unsuccessfully to get through to the engineering department by press time to find out why; I’ll (hopefully) have an update soon.
New Weekenders
Alt 98.7 (KYSR) has added Marty and Ashlee to the weekend air staff. I think it’s great that iHeart Media is finally working on building up local talent, As you know radio will only survive if if does what it constantly claims to do: serve the local community.
What’s that? “Both Marty and Aslee will still continue in their current roles at sister Active Rock KIOZ (Rock 105.3)/San Diego,” according to the press release. So iHeart, er, iHate Media is still too cheap and, let’s just use the correct word -- stupid -- to actually program a local station? You mean to tell me there were no local DJs that could have helped develop a station for Los Angeles? Or put another way, you mean to tell me that a major Los Angeles station cannot afford -- or lacks the drive -- to hire their own talent for their own station?
Tell me again why I should bother listening to an iHate Media station rather than my iPod? Crickets ...
I cannot wait for iHate, CBS and Cumulus to just implode from the staggering debt they have collectively taken on by destroying radio as we know it.
Nationwide cuts at CBS Radio and Cumulus Media have been in the news lately, though determining who was cut where is proving difficult. The only one I can verify locally is Freddy Snakeskin, who was the “image writer” for Jack FM (KCBS-FM, 93.1) as well as the programmer for the Roq of the 80s format heard on digital 106.7 HD2.
As these companies amputate appendages and sever arteries in an attempt to make money before their business model fails ... again, one thing stands out: a rumor that CBS radio stations are going to be offered up for sale and that Cumulus may be the buyer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #91

“My mom passed away early this morning in Detroit,” began the message posted to Shana Livigni’s Facebook page last weekend by her son Tony. “There is nothing at all to indicate how she passed away; it happened in her sleep.”

Livigni (born Margaret Reichl), who on the air was known only as “Shana,” was a pioneering female in male-dominated top-40 and album-rock radio. She was the first female DJ on top-40 KFRC/San Francisco back in 1974; in 1976 she became the first female DJ to hit the airwaves of top-40 KHJ (930 AM) when programmer Charlie Van Dyke lured her to Southern California.

“She worked overnights,” said Van Dyke on Facebook. “Our shifts crossed every day at 6 a.m.; I loved driving in, listening to her skills on the air. Her first language was German, so her English had a unique quality that you couldn’t nail down. KHJ’s first lady DJ. A lady, indeed.”

After KHJ she moved on to KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) during its AOR years, followed by a year at KROQ (106.7 FM). But it was at KLOS (95.5 FM) where she really made her mark.

She started at KLOS in 1980. But in 1984 she was paired with newsman Chuck Moshontz to replace Frazier Smith in the morning shift, one of the few times -- still -- that a woman hosted a morning show. Interestingly, the same “experiment” was happening at crosstown rival KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) where Cynthia Fox was paired with newsman Pat Kelley. Shana is still fondly remembered for her work -- including a sense of happiness and humor that permeated her shows at KLOS and later KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM), where she stayed until 1995. 

She was a writer and editor for Album Network Magazine, taught broadcasting classes at UCLA and Pasadena City College (even hosted at show at KPCC 89.3 FM in 1996 and 1997), worked as a talent coordinator for the syndicated radio program Rockline, did voiceover work and hosted fundraising events. Her last regular on-air shift locally was at KCBS-FM (93.1) in 2005.

She had just recently moved to Michigan to be closer to her family. According to her son Tony, “She was very happy in recent months and living some of the happiest days of her life.” 

“I worked with Shana twice, once indirectly and more recently, a lot closer,” Mary Lyon -- another female LA radio pioneer -- told me. “She was already a pioneer, as one of the first women to break into major market rock radio in the mid-70s, at KFRC in San Francisco. I first met her after she arrived in L.A., at what was then the Top-40 powerhouse 93 KHJ-AM, where I handled morning news. She ruled late nights, and thus became a distinguished member of the then-fledgeling L.A. radio sisterhood.

“She later took over morning drive on KLOS -- the first woman to do that. Her face was on every bus billboard in town! I felt so proud of her, because women at the helm in morning drive were rare back then. It was a HUGE accomplishment at that time. “She was funny, too, with her smoky voice and quick wit. Great show - very irreverent, a touch rowdy, add some rock 'n' roll gossip and lots of laughs, plus, she sure knew her music and most of the artists behind it. If you were marooned in morning traffic, she was always terrific company! 

“And all the while she was a devoted mom juggling the responsibilities of three kids she adored. Shana eventually became a rock 'n' roll godmother to my son's rock band, ACIDIC, when they were just starting, and she helped guide them on their way to becoming a national touring band. I was so glad to have her as a friend! We all were. I miss her a lot.”

We all do. Services are pending.

Safe and Sound

When word came down last week that Bonneville Broadcasting was going to trade The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) to Entercom in exchange for a cluster of stations in Denver, I assumed the worst.

As of now, however, it seems I was wrong. With the station hitting a high in the ratings and it seeming to be on a roll, it appears that Entercom will let it roll, and no staffing changes or changes in direction are expected. That is good. Entercom assumed operations of The Sound July 13th.

In other news, The Sound was nominated for a Marconi in the category of Rock Station of the Year for the second year in a row ... the only local album rock station to be nominated.

KIIS-FM (102.7 FM) was nominated for Major Market Station of the Year; My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM) for Adult Contemporary Station of the Year, KKLA (99.5 FM) for Religious Station of the Year, and KIIS-FM’s Ryan Seacrest was nominated for Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year.

The Marconi Awards are presented by the National Association of Broadcasters and winners will be announced October 1st.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #90

Any doubts regarding the direction of the music on KRTH (101.1 FM) have been put to rest with the release of the June Nielsen ratings. The oldies -- er, classic hits -- station had the top spot to itself, completing at least six months as the top-rated station in Los Angeles with the exception of April, in which it was 2nd.
And for one of the very few times since I have been writing this column, KIIS-FM was not in the top-two. It was close, but the longtime leader was bested by sister stations My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM) and KOST (103.5 FM) which tied for 2nd, leaving KIIS-FM at 4th. A very close 4th.
Generally speaking, all the regulars were in their place ... The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) as the top classic rocker 6th, followed by Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1) in 7th, for example. But two stations managed to either make or solidify previously-made moves and each one is worth mentioning.

First is The Wave, (KTWV, 94.7 FM). As Dan Kearney, Senior VP and Market Manager of the station explained, “What began as a hip-hop battle between Power 106 (KPWR, 105.9 FM) and Real 92.3 (KRRL) has turned into a bigger story for The Wave. We were already making changes to the Wave’s sound and then caught a break when Hot 92.3 decided to go after Power and switch to Real.”

The result? In October, the Wave was #22 in the Los Angeles ratings market. Now it is 5th ... with the highest share of the ratings since ... I can remember, perhaps since it was album rocker KMET. And it’s not a fluke ... outside of a slight statistically insignificant drop this month to 4.2 rating compared with May’s 4.4, the station has been building a steadily and has added nearly a million listeners. I guess those old-school hits The Wave added when Hot dropped the format are a little more appealing than thought ...

The second station with big news is Go Country (KKGO, 105.1 FM) which jumped more than half a point to its highest rating. For the frequency. Ever. It’s 12th place 3.0 share along with a daily cumulative audience of over 1.3 million places it in the coveted position of being the most-listened-to country station in the United States. 

Ironically, Go Country beat Power 106 (2.7 rating; ted for 15th) which is owned by the company that dropped country years ago because of owner Emmis’ thinking that the potential country audience was too low. I’m not sure what this means for Power 106, which has been hard hit by competitor Real 92.3 (11th place at 3.1). Is Power on its way out? Can we get Chuck Martin to recreate K-West 106? Hey, I can dream ...

KLOS (95.5 FM) is finally moving in the right direction, tied for 16th at 2.7. Just two months ago the station was on life support at 2.0, the rating it held since at least January. Why the move? KLOS programmer Keith Cunningham is deliberately differentiating the station from the competition playing a different mix of music.

Correction: Last week I mentioned talk station KRLA but had a flashback to the old top-40/oldies station. The correct frequency for talker KRLA is 870 AM).

The full story; Each rating is an estimate of the percentage of listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight as determined by Nielsen Ratings:

1. KRTH (5.2) 2.KBIG, KOST (5.1) 4. KIIS-FM (4.9) 5. KTWV (4.2) 6. KSWD (3.7) 7. KCBS-FM (3.6) 8. KFI (3.5) 9. KAMP (3.4) 10. KLVE (3.3)
11. KRRL (3.1) 12. KKGO (3.0) 13. KLAX (2.9) 14. KRCD (2.8) 15. KLOS, KNX, KPWR, KROQ (2.7) 19. KSCA (2.4) 20. KLYY, KYSR (2.3)
22. KPCC (2.0) 23. KXOL (1.8) 24. KBUE (1.6) 25. KUSD (1.5) 26. KCRW (1.4) 27. KSPN (1.3) 28. KDAY (1.2) 29. KJLH (1.0) 30. KEIB, KFSH, KLAC, KSSE, KWIZ (0.9)

35. KKJZ, KRLA (0.7) 37. KKLA (0.5) 38. KABC (0.4) 39. KLAA, KTNQ (0.3) 41. KFWB, KPFK (0.2)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #89

Last month I mentioned just a handful of what I consider interesting non-political talk shows, including some on the air and one available as a podcast. This was in response to a letter from reader Evelyn in Sylmar, who lamented a lack of choice regarding many talk shows.

The limited handful was on purpose. I didn’t want to mention many because I wanted to see what you thought. And as always, you came through. Here is a sample:

Michael R. Moore or Duarte, who has been reading the Pasadena Star News for over 52 years (thank you!) wrote, “I could not believe you overlooked one individual. I will assume it was simply an oversight ... I am referring of course to Leon Kaplan's "Motor Man" radio show on KABC every Sunday morning from 8:00 am to 10:00 a.m., where he helps so many callers with their car, truck, motorcycle, and airplane questions. He has been on the air for DECADES. It is a first class show and very educational.”

Saundra Sheffer of San Dimas says: “Anybody who wants humor, stories, memoirs, issues, etc, etc. would do well to check out KPCC (89.3 FM). Weekend programming is different from weekday programming. Try it all! 

“I especially recommend Larry Mantle (weekdays 11 - 1) for issues. The wonderful Click and Clack the Tapit Brothers are still on via re-runs on Saturday mornings, along with the quiz show Wait, wait, don't tell me! Then there's Garrison Keillor and his weekly mix of humor, fake ads, corny jokes, the week in Lake Wobegon, some hymns thrown in now and then--real down home stuff. Science, recipes, you can find it all on KPCC. They strive to be non-partisan and equal when it comes to politics and controversial issues”

Edward Larkin of San Gabriel wrote: “Here is one I enjoy ... it's on Saturday morning 7-9  on KSPN  710 AM) and it's called “Weekend Warrior” and it features an Orthopedic Doctor who answers questions from the listeners on their sports injuries. The show is part medicine and part philosophy ... Give it a try.” (I can use that one).

One reader mentioned Dennis Prager, heard locally on KRLA (1110 AM) 9 a.m. to 12 noon or on KTIE (590 AM) in the Inland Empire 7 - 10 p.m. I had to disqualify his program from the discussion, though, since it is a political talk show (even if it is one of the better of the genre) and this discussion is on non-political shows.

Other shows mentioned by readers include Tim Conway (KFI 640 AM weekdays 7 - 10 p.m., Coast to Coast (KFI weeknights 10 p.m. to 12 midnight), Dr. Drew Midday Live (KABC 790 AM weekdays noon - 3 p.m.), John Phillips and Julian Barberie (KABC  weekdays 3 - 6 p.m.), and a few that I already mentioned including podcast Phil Hulett and Friends available at PhilHulettandFriends.Com.

Of course what column on non-political talk shows would be complete without mention of The Tom Leykis Show? Yes, he does get political -- politics was Leykis’ first entry into talk -- but for the most part it is politically incorrect. Relationship advice from a male perspective (i.e. how to bag a chick) along with ... well, maybe that’s about it ... (BlowMeUpTom.Com).

Have SiriusXM? Talk with your animals with host Sonya Fitzpatrick on Animal Intuition (Sundays 1-3 p.m. and 7 - 9 p.m. on Channel 109); and hear Dr. Laura still giving advice to people who should already know what she’s going to say (weekdays 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Channel 109)

Shutting Down

LARadio.Com is shutting down. Again. This time I think it’s for good. It was actually supposed to be gone already but site owner Don Barrett just can’t get radio out of his blood. The problem is the site still makes little money for the time spent reporting and Barrett wants to spend more time with his family. Expect it to shut down by the end of the month, after he is done highlighting radio’s best on and off-air people, and allowing readers to reminisce.