Thursday, October 27, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #149

Radio October 28, 2016

Spanish broadcaster SBS -- Spanish Broadcasting System --  is being sued for wrongful termination by former KLAX (97.9 FM) personality Stephanie Himondis, known on the air as Chiquibaby, and her husband Gerardo Lopez in a twisted case involving allegations of illegally taking payment for the playing of music, or payola.

Himondis was hired originally to host the morning show, while Lopez was brought in as general manager of SBS’ Los Angeles properties KLAX and and KXOL (96.3 FM). Both began their positions in 2014.

According to the suit, SBS demanded that as part of their jobs, the two collect payments of $5000 from artists for their songs to be played on KLAX. When they refused and complained, the company retaliated first demoting Himondis by moving her to overnights and later by firing both her and Lopez.

According to Courthouse News Service (CourthouseNews.Com),    the two are seeking more than $10 million “for wrongful termination, breach of contract, Labor Code violations, breach of faith and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”


Bruni Mars headlined the 4th Annual We Can Survive concert presented by CBS Radio at the Hollywood Bowl on October 22nd. Also on hand were Ariana Grande, Charlie Puth, G-Eazy, Meghan Trainor, OneRepublic, and Pitbull. Even the Backstreet Boys made an appearance, the first time they have played at The Bowl.

The annual event made its debut in 2013 and is held in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For every ticket sold, $2 benefited Young Survival Coalition, an organization dedicated to issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

New this year is a web video series entitled “Survivor Stories,” which showcases some of the faces of Young Survival Coalition sharing their experiences with breast cancer. The episodes can be viewed on

Rocking Dead

In celebration of the season premiere of AMC Network’s The Walking Dead last Sunday October 23rd, The Sound (100.3 FM) will be presenting The Rocking Dead all this weekend, October 28-30, beginning at 2 p.m. Friday.

No Rams game this weekend so the music will run Sunday too ... until 6 p.m.

What is it? Blocks of classic rock from bands in which at least one original member is deceased. See a satiric video of the “staff meeting” in which the weekend is announced at

Mars Anniversary

I was never a huge fan of Mars FM, a simulcast of two stations broadcasting at 103.1 FM (now known as KDLD/Santa Monica and KDLE/Newport Beach). I just never got into techno music... but I know many who did, and the station itself was a powerhouse in terms of talent ... Freddy Snakeskin, Swedish Egil, Raechel Donahue, Big Ron O’Brien, and many more graced the halls of the station.

Turns out that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of the New Music Invasion programmed by the legendary Los Angeles personality Snakeskin.

Now you can relive the station. Just head over to where you can find not only a history of the station, but uncut recordings ... a virtual audio memorial of a format. Well worth listening.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #148

Radio: October 21, 2016

KBIG (My FM, 104.3) has teamed up with furniture retailer Living Spaces to award a teacher’s lounge makeover at a school near you.

Teachers and students can enter the contest by uploading a picture of their school, tell why the school deserves a teacher’s lounge upgrade, and then vote. Submissions can be made through October 28 at 10 a.m.; voting will take place starting October 28 at 3 p.m. and continue until November 3rd at 3 p.m.

The winning school gets $5000 for the makeover. I believe that is more than the total value of everything in every teacher’s lounge I have ever seen ... combined.

Lawrence Passes

Don Barrett broke the sad news on LARadio.Com that former KFI newsman Jay Lawrence passed away on September 22, due to a massive heart attack. He was 69.

According to Barrett, he died returning from a golf game, an activity he loved. A bachelor until the age of 50, he is survived by his wife Reni, who told Barrett: “Our life was magical. We shared the love of golf, made some extraordinary friendships, and we were best of friends to each other and truly loved each other. I will miss him deeply.” I can add, we all will.

Reverse Stock Split Approved

Cumulus Media, owner of 450 radio stations nationwide including KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) here in Los Angeles, announced last week that shareholders approved a reverse stock split in which shareholders receive one share of stock for every eight they previously held. The effective date of the reverse split was after trading hours on October 12; the new “improved” stock was available on the NASDAQ market beginning at the opening bell October 13th.

The plan was designed to have Cumulus avoid being delisted from the exchange due to its inability to maintain a price above $1 as required by NASDAQ. Cumulus has been trading in roughly a 20 - 40 cent range for most of the past year having lost over 95 percent of its value over the past decade or so.

The opening price on October 13th was $2.39, reflecting a value of just under 30 cents a share pre-reverse split. It closed October 13th at $2.01, then closed on October 14th at $1.95 (24.4 cents pre-split), a decline in value of of a little more than 18 percent in two days. Not exactly the direction the Board intended.

Why? What’s the problem? Isn’t Cumulus adding to stockholder value through innovative programming yada yada as told to me by Thom Callahan, President of the Southern California Broadcasters Association? In a word, no. And it’s not just Cumulus; iHeart Media is in similar dire straits, and CBS is still trying to figure out what to do with its stations. The companies are just too big to manage their stations successfully.
As I have said for years, the current model for radio isn’t working, and it has never worked. Promised efficiencies never materialized; cost-cutting took away the creative and competitive drive to keep listeners -- and advertisers -- happy. It is time for the FCC and Congress to save radio by bringing back limits on ownership to no more than ten stations nationwide, no more than one each of AM, FM and television in any market. 

It’s going to happen anyway, one way or another (read: bankruptcy liquidation, unless the companies start selling off properties). Cumulus isn’t alone in being worth more as the sum of its parts than it is as one company. But the rules must be in place to prevent this from ever happening again. There are a lot of talented people working in radio still, let’s let them work their magic without the constraints of top-heavy corporate bean counters and the massive debt the companies hold.

A much smaller Cumulus would actually succeed. Time to do it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

RE-FEED: Radio Waves Podcast #146

We were alerted that Radio Waves #146 was an old episode. We went back and checked and we screwed up. Here is the correct episode for those that really care.......

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #147

Airwaves: October 14, 2016

Budget cuts are a fact of life in these days of corporate radio. But in a case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, the entire metro area of Albuquerque, New Mexico almost lost every television and FM radio station because transmitter sites are no longer manned unless work is being done. And it could happen elsewhere.

KOB Television Channel 4 reported last week that two television engineers just happened to be in the area -- they normally are not -- and noticed an open door at one transmitter building with flickering light inside. They then witnessed an unknown man and, according to KOB, “practically interrupted the male suspect as he lit the first (of a stash) of Molotov cocktails.”

The suspect remains on the loose; his stolen getaway vehicle was later found on fire. But investigators say that there was enough fuel brought to the mountain location to “literally blow every broadcaster off the mountain,” according to KOB’s Kasia Gregorczyk. More Molotov cocktails were found just steps away from dozens of transmitters that also featured backup generators with propane tanks. Officials are considering it an act of domestic terrorism. 

As one comment to the story reprinted at AllAccess.Com stated, “not so long ago, the F.C.C. required that all TV transmitter sites be manned whenever the station was on-the-air. This manned presence also helped provide some security. Perhaps station owners need to rethink the unmanned transmitter site paradigm.”

Reviving AM

I received quite a few emails regarding my plan to bring AM radio back to life by playing music, the idea being that if you play what people want to hear they may actually consider the band an entertainment choice rather than something to ignore.

I know that it probably won’t happen. At least not overnight. But I once again send this message to owners: what have you got yo lose? No one is listening now anyway. Realistically, though, it will probably take the bankruptcy of the large ownership monopolies before this really happens. Once the stations are under local control again.

Regardless, the emails were mostly in agreement, some offering more suggestions. Such as:

“Nice article on AM stations being dead in LA, with your advice that AM stations should go back to older music formats.  However, you left out a format that I and many others care greatly about: Classic Country. For many of us, older country music (i.e., prior to about 1990) is far superior to the newer stuff; I have talked with many older country music fans over the years that lament the fact that Classic Country music cannot be found on either AM or FM stations. Fortunately, SiriusXM does carry a station called Willie’s Roadhouse that plays Classic Country music. But, SiriusXM costs me over $200 per year. I only subscribe to it so I can listen to Classic Country, and I would much prefer an AM or FM station with the same format.” -- Ron Viereck, Long Beach

A few writers mentioned KBOQ (1260 AM, 105.1 HD3) as the one music format that IS on local AM. That was not an oversight as I wanted to specifically mention formats missing from the dial ... I am always happy to mention the station. But of all the letters received, not one person thought it a bad idea. 

Short Takes

Shotgun Tom Kelly appeared on Tonight in San Diego recently. Check out the appearance at ... Don Barrett of LARadio.Com reports that Jim Meeker, veteran of KEZY, KWIZ and the original KRLA died of prostate cancer last weekend at the age of 78. Meeker’s favorite on-air contest: giving away a real love horse on his afternoon KEZY show during the height of popularity for America’s “Horse With No Name.” This horse was given a name: Amerage ...

KFWB (980 AM) has been sold again, just six months since it was originally bought from CBS for $8 million. Price paid this time by Lotus Communications? $11.2 million ... What does it mean when a company pushes it’s own station to a lower-fidelity HD stream? I’d say it either doesn’t give a darn about the station or it is so desperate for cash it shouldn’t be in the broadcast business. Such is the case with Cumulus’ KABC (790 AM), which pushed its HD simulcast on 95.5 FM to KLOS’s HD3 stream. It had been HD2 with a nice sound. now it just sounds bad. Make of that what you want.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #146

Radio: October 7, 2016

As a longtime cheerleader of AM radio, much as I hate to say it, AM is dead. It’s not even on life support here in Los Angeles any more, it’s dead.
In the most recent monthly ratings released in mid September by Nielsen, there were only nine AM stations that made the list at all out of 41 stations total, accounting for a grand total of 10.1 percent of the listening audience. The highest-rated AM station, KNX (1070 AM) earned a 2.9 percent share of the audience aged six and over; KNX and KFI (640 AM) account for over half of the listenership of the entire AM band with a total of 5.5. 

By comparison, the top-two FM stations, KOST (103.5 FM) and KIIS-FM (102.7) earned a combined 10.5 share ... meaning that two FM stations beat out the entire AM band’s total ratings. That’s sad.
Obviously current programming is not attracting an audience. Not young, not old. Not at all. Reliance on political talk, infomercials, and sports just doesn’t cut it when it comes to attracting listeners. In order for AM to become relevant -- suggesting it should “stay” relevant would mean it “is” relevant, and it most certainly is not -- it needs to reinvent itself once more. Or perhaps more accurately, look to formats that would attract an audience if they were offered.

Industry observers and insiders don’t like to admit this, since the sorry state of radio in general and AM radio in particular is their fault. But many of the stations that lack ratings once did. At least they did when they played music. 570, 690, 930, 1110, 1150, 1190, 1580 ... all had good, or at least acceptable ratings until they lost focus and either programmed canned junk or dropped music altogether. Even KFI, the second-highest-rated AM station in town had similar and often higher ratings as top-40 than they do now.

My opinion is that AM can still compete, as long as stations offer a format that either can’t be found elsewhere or is just done better. What formats? Glad you asked. The following are just a few that could help revitalize America’s first broadcast band.

Heavy Metal. Pure Rock KNAC (now KBUA, 105.5 FM) proved not only that there is a substantial audience for metal, but that they are among the most dedicated (read: rabid) listeners anywhere. And our area has numerous talented, up and coming metal or related bands that could use the airplay; indeed, such bands as Odyssey Dawn, Divine Intervention, Soulera and reggae/punk band LAW all play to packed venues throughout the South Bay, Long Beach and Hollywood. Play these and classic metal and you’d bring listeners to the AM band who never even knew there even was an AM band.

Fifties Oldies. A format that can’t be found anywhere. Once a mainstay of oldies stations -- some purists feel that the ‘50s are the only real oldies -- the format done right can attract an audience spanning generations. Art Laboe has known that for years.

Sixties Oldies. Another format that does not exist here. Much of the material that was played on stations such as KHJ (930 AM) from 1965-1970 hasn’t ridden the airwaves since then. You’d be surprised how many old airchecks feature songs you may not remember; give them a place and you again will find listeners.

Seventies oldies. See a trend here? Since KRTH (101.1 FM) and KOLA (99.9 FM) abandoned most music prior to 1980, there is a huge void waiting to be filled. And numerous programmers and DJs willing to play those hits.

Get a station that plays the best of all the rock decades with a focus on Doo-Wop and the East Los Angeles music scene (think War, El Chicano, Tierra, and more) that propelled the original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM) to the top of the oldies list years ago, and I guarantee a winner.

Rap. Real rap such as heard when played by such DJs as JJ Johnson on the original late, great KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM). Most rap on the radio now is whitewashed; KDAY was real. Bring it back.

Big Band. MIA since the old KGRB (now KALI, 900 AM) left the air 20 years ago. Yes it skews old, but not as old as you might think. Besides, old is better than nothing. And believe it or not, “seasoned citizens” listen to ads and buy things.

Adult top-40. Music that appeals to the over-25 crowd but consists of current bands seasoned with oldies and classic rock. With a high-energy, fun but uncluttered presentation that rivals that of the best top-40 stations of the past. Think KHJ, Ten-Q or KFI all grown up.

Would these stations dominate? No. But they would be a force to be reckoned with, and would accomplish two things: bring new and old listeners back to a band that programmers long ago abandoned, and keep the FMs an their toes ... in much the same way that early FM formats made AM stronger, for a while at least. Besides, as with early FM when AM dominated, today’s AM stations truly have nothing to lose.

Then perhaps some of the AM stations in Los Angeles would have something to show for themselves.