Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #113

In case you missed the story by The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth, who broke the news earlier this month, KFWB (980 AM) has been sold and -- pending FCC approval -- will be changing formats when the deal closes sometime on or near February 15th.

KFWB has been running sports programming as The Beast 980 since September 2014; my understanding is that both listeners are distraught. KFWB has never been able to muster more than a small share of the local audience: since its inception it has hovered around a 0.3 share of the audience aged 6 and over.

Not that anyone outside -- or likely even inside -- of owner CBS Radio ever expected anything more. Sports talk just doesn’t fly in Los Angeles as witnessed by the combined ratings of KLAA (830 AM), KFWB, KLAC (570 AM) and KSPN (710 AM) totaling only 2.3 in the December Nielsen ratings. KFWB and KLAA added only 0.5 to that.

What I don’t understand is why it took CBS so long to sell a station it was illegally holding since 2002 when the company’s purchase of KCAL-TV Channel 9 put it over the legal ownership limit. Did it really take CBS 14 years to find a buyer? The station should have had to forfeit the license back in 2002. That they were allowed to hold it for so long proves (in my opinion) how inept, if not corrupt, is the modern FCC.

Regardless, KFWB hasn’t been a contender for years. At one time it was the top-40 music leader in Los Angeles; later it was the source for news and often beat KNX (1070 AM) in spite of being the scrappy underfunded station it was under then-ownership Westinghouse. But recent years have not been kind to the former leader; the last time the station earned a rating over 1.0 is at least five years ago.

In fact, KFWB’s decline mirrors the decline in radio itself as corporate ownership destroyed stations. Even though it was KFWB parent Westinghouse that bought CBS Radio (and kept the CBS name), the station lost its luster as all the attention was given to sister KNX. Eventually KFWB left news to KNX as it became a talk station, then later sports.

What will become of it now? Rumor is that CBS specified that the buyer had to change to a foreign-language format so as to not compete with any current remaining CBS stations. So, as of sometime around mid February, you can expect new owner Universal Media Access, which owns stations in San Jose, Seattle and Boston and focuses on Asian, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Russian, German, and Vietnamese programming, to take The Beast multicultural.

Sounds Different

Programmer Dave Beasing kept his promise of “shaking things up” at The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) last week. Replacing Julie Slater is Andy Chanley, most recently the technical ringleader of Mark in the Morning who launched Andy in the Afternoon on January 15th.

Joining Chanley is Christian Hand, also heard most recently on Mark in the Morning as the super-producer who dissects the music tracks of classic rock songs.

What Beasing hopes to do is a true shake-up. This is personality-driven afternoon drive music radio, something that really isn’t done any more. It’s an interesting evolution in a station that at one time barely allowed the DJs to speak, and has the potential to wake up the entire bland, safe corporate McRadio world. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

And, of course, if it doesn’t work, I’m still waiting by the phone.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #112

Bill Carroll, who held down the weekday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift on KFI (640 AM) has left the station.
His contract was up, and it is very possible that he was pushed out. My sources say no, although it does not seem that management tried hard to convince him to stay.

Here’s what seems to have happened. Carroll has been living in Los Angeles and doing his program from the studios of KFI in Burbank. He’s also been doing an afternoon show since January, 2013 for Toronto, Canada talk station CFMJ, which happens to also broadcast at 640 AM.

Carroll originally came to Los Angeles in 2010 when he was lured from Canada to host the noon to 3:00 shift at KFI. His contract was extended by KFI for three years in December, 2012, the same time that he announced his return to the Toronto airwaves.

At the end of his KFI program on January 8, he announced that he was leaving Los Angeles to return to Canada to be closer to his family.

I believe it. I also believe that if he wanted to stay, and was willing to work for whatever pay KFI offered, programmer Robin Bertolucci would have been happy to keep him on. My hunch, however, is that ratings are not what Bertolucci wanted, so she is not too disappointed that Carroll wanted to return to Canada.

The fact that the contract was not renewed, and that my sources say the separation was “mutual,” tends to make me feel my hunch is correct. 

There’s been no official word on the move from KFI, though the website now lists Gary (Hoffman) and Shannon (Farron) with a longer show and an earlier start: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (formerly 1-3 p.m.); John (Kobylt) and Ken (Chiampou) shifting an hour earlier (2-6 rather than 3-7) and Tim Conway with an extra hour beginning at 6:00 instead of 7:00.

Slater Leaves The Sound

Carroll was not the only one to leave the local airwaves. The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) programmer Dave Beasing announced that longtime Sound afternoon personality July Slater is gone.

“One of our original DJs has left The Sound,” Beasing said in an email. “Please join me in wishing Julie Slater all the best. She remains a good friend to us all and will be missed.”

No word on her replacement, though my suggestion was to put Cynthia Fox in Slater’s afternoon spot and have me cover for Fox on the weekends.

Beasing neglected to respond immediately. I will be waiting patiently by the phone for his call ...
Tough Times Continue

Emmis is the latest radio company to report disappointing financials and layoffs. According to AllAccess.Com, the company laid off 32 employees -- only one on-air position -- and cut the salaries of all senior executives on January 6th. The radio division was off about 5 percent from last year due in large part to the problems faced by Power 106 (KPWR, 105.9 FM) -- it’s only Los Angeles station -- in having a new direct competitor: Real 92.3 FM.

KLOS Short Takes

Nothing confirmed at press time, but rumor has Jonsey’s Jukebox expanding to five days a week on KLOS (95.5 FM) -- Monday through Friday form noon to 2 p.m. ... perhaps before you even read this.

In the meantime, the station seems to be heading more current, with at least one morning show recently featuring numerous current rock songs in place of traditional classic rock. Is KLOS heading toward new ground? Indie 95.5? Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #111

The holiday season brought a grinch of sorts to internet radio station webcasters: an increase in the cost of licensing fees for the music they play.

In a decision announced in December, new rates were developed as they have been every five years and taking effect as of January 1st. Unlike previous years, the rates did not include a special provision for small to medium-sized webcasters that allowed them to pay a percentage of revenue rather than a royalty per song, per listener. Considering that most small webcasters make no money, this was a huge cost-savings.

And the difference between allowing their hobby to continue or having to let it go. Island Classic Hits, for example, claims on its website that its fees are increasing from roughly $900 per year to more than $30,000 annually. And this is typical, according to other webcasters to whom I have spoken.

So as of January 1st, hundreds of webcasters nationwide have shut down their streams completely or are playing loops of music or messages asking listeners to lobby Congress for help. The royalty rates are set by a three-member panel of judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board, and there is still a chance that the Board will work something out.

Interestingly, while radio stations streams pay these royalties (and of course have advertising to back them up unlike most small webcasters) stations themselves pay no fees for their on-air broadcasts, as the music industry recognizes the place radio exposure has in the sales of music ... without exposure, there are no sales.

Which is why I find it not only ironic but stupid anbd shortsighted that small (it actually should be all) webcasters are not totally exempt from the royalty fees ... radio does a lousy job of exposing new music and new acts; without the internet and webcasters many songs would never be heard at all ... and music sales would suffer more.

Celebration Time

A celebration of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the "Pure Rock" format on KNAC (now KBUE, 105.5 FM) in Long Beach will take place January 8th at 4 p.m. The webcast will be hosted by former KNAC-FM morning man, Thrasher, who will be joined by many of the former Pure Rock personalities to reminisce and share stories about the station. The show will also include recorded airchecks from the nine years that the Pure Rock format existed at the station.

You can experience this event on your computer or mobile device at the following location:

• Via the LA Radio Studio website:http://laradiostudio.com/CamChat/cam.html or with chatroom at http://laradiostudio.com/CamChat/

• Via Shoutcast.com at: or realplayer) (audio only)

According to my Pure Rock historian and former Pure Rock Talkback host, Michael Stark, some streams may not always work due to internet bandwidth problems, so if one doesn’t work, try another. 

Then, ffter listening on Friday, come out Saturday night and party with the staff - in person - as the KNAC 30th Anniversary Party continues from 8 p.m. to closing time at Saint Rocke, 142 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Changes Down South

I grew up in San Pedro, which due to its location near the coast was a near ideal place to hear radio stations from San Diego. So besides the great local stations, I grew up listening to San Diego’s KCBQ (1170 AM) and others as well.

One of my favorites was B-100 (KFMB-FM, 100.7), San Diego’s first FM top-40 station. Programmed by Bobby Rich, the station included some amazing talent, many of whom came from KCBQ and KGB (now KLSD, 1360 AM) : Gene Knight, Dave Conley, and our own transplant, Shotgun Tom Kelly (now heard on KRTH 101.1 FM weekends).

In more recent years the excitement of B-100 was lost as the station evolved into first Star 100.7 and then Jack-FM (not to be confused with our own Jack). Ratings were decent, but it was certainly not the same.

Now the station is trying something new, and personally I’m kind of excited that they have the foresight -- and the guts to go against modern brand-think -- and are using the actual call letters, saying them much as they did during the B-100 era: “K-F-M, B-F-M”

The new 100.7 KFMB-FM is basically an alternative-leaning classic rock station playing songs similar to KGB-FM (101.5 FM). Or the former Jack format, for that matter. “We play whatever we want, whenever we want” (note to programmers - you should be playing what listeners want) is the new slogan ... not far removed from the Jack concept of “playing what we want.” As I write this. Oingo Boingo’s “Just Another Day” is coming out of the speakers; the launch song on Monday, January 4th at about 10:10 a.m. was “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush.

The new launch wrapped up a week of stunting, in which there was a different format each day after the Christmas music stopped.