Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #160

Radio: January 27, 2017

Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker and a business/marketing consultant. In an interview from an episode of Inside Quest (InsideQuest.Com), Sinek spoke of “Millennials” -- those born roughly after 1984 -- and their attitudes toward life and work.

Part of the interview got into technology, specifically cell phones. The short version (which I think applies to people from other generations just as much as Millennials): some people get addicted to their cell phones and social media. “Engagement in social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine,” he explained. It feels good when you get a text, when you get a “like” ... and when you get those you get a hit of dopamine ... “the same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink, and when we gamble.”

“It’s highly, highly addictive,” he said.

What does this have to do with radio? In my case it explains why I so much enjoy hearing old radio airchecks, such as found on ReelRadio.Com, and more, as well as my general love of all things radio.

When I was young, my Aunt Ina gave me a 10-transistor Realtone radio. I was hooked. Through the years I collected, repaired -- and listened -- to many different radios. Most of them in the early days AM, through which I listened to the powerhouse top-40 stations and competitors KHJ (930 AM), KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM), KCBQ/San Diego (1170 AM), KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) and KFI (640 AM). 

I took an old Citation III tuner out of my brother’s closet and connected it to a guitar amplifier so I could hear KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7), K-100 (now KSWD, 100.3 FM) and B-100 (KFMB-FM/ San Diego, 100.7 FM). I would listen to the top-10 on KCBQ and post it to the chalkboard in my garage.

Through the years and stations I formed a bond with stations and personalities. I truly think this was my dopamine source growing up. When I first heard the “jock logos” -- jingles that sang the DJ’s name -- when  K-WEST went to top-40 in 1981, I was on a high the entire night while working at the local Sears catalog surplus store in San Pedro.

Radio was my life and it still is, which is why this column exists. I still listen to radio more than any other entertainment source ... I wonder if any stations or personalities today elicit the same response to kids growing up as they did to me? Thoughts?

More Ratings Problems

The Portable People Meter (PPM) from Nielsen sounds like an amazing way to collect ratings data. At least on paper. Have stations send a signal that can be decoded by an electronic box worn by those chosen to help determine the popularity of various radio stations. Automatic listening determination. Much better than the old system of relying on memory ... in which those elected to represent various demographics write down in a diary the stations and times they listened during the week.

Or is it actually better? There are already known problems: problems with decoding the electronic signal during quiet passages or spoken voice (talk) programming, problems decoding in noisy environments such as when a PPM holder is in a car with the windows down, too much credit if the PPM holder is in a business playing a station as background music, and problems with connections to the data collection system that rendered the ratings for December all but useless.

Now another problem is cropping up: headphones. Listen to radio with headphones? Then the PPM box cannot hear the signal at all so no ratings credit is given.

Jacobs Media reported on this recently, noting that the “headphone problem is glaring - yet ignored.” Jacobs claims that 17 percent of their respondents listen to radio using headphones at least half of the time they listen to radio, often while working out or walking, jogging or running. That’s huge.

Jacobs is pushing for a solution to make the PPM better. I wonder if we’d be better off going back to diaries.

Cumulus Bonuses

Three top executives at Cumulus Media (owner of KABC, 790 AM and KLOS, 95.5 FM) received bonuses at the end of 2016, including President/CEO Mary Berner, who took home a whopping $1.087 million extra. What did she and the others do to earn that? You tell me ... as of press time the stock price of Cumulus was at its lowest ever, closing at 97 cents per share on January 20.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #159

Radio: January 20, 2017

HD Radio has been available to the consumer in the United States since 2002 when it was selected by the FCC as the standard for digital in-band on-channel broadcasts on the AM and FM bands

Unlike some parts of the world which decided to go with an entirely separate digital broadcasting band with the ultimate goal of shutting down traditional AM and FM stations, the FCC in the United States decided to select a system that allowed traditional broadcasts on AM and FM. This under an assumption that someday -- perhaps -- digital broadcasts would take over and analog shut off, though no mandate was given and no timetable ever suggested. 

HD Radio -- the HD is a marketing term and has no meaning -- was developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation. In its current form, a station tuned in on an HD Radio is first heard in analog, and after a few seconds to allow for buffering, switches to digital.

On AM stations, the change in sound quality is dramatic. Hearing AM with no background noise and increased fidelity is somewhat startling the first time you hear it, though between limitations of the system and poor encoding by some stations, digital artifacts can make the signal sound unpleasant to some listeners. When done right as with KNX (1070 AM) the results are stunning.

On FM the change is less dramatic due to FM’s natural high fidelity, but done right the station will sound fuller and with more high frequencies than analog FM. HD FM stations can also receive sub-channels, meaning that a station can broadcast more than one channel of programming on the same frequency much like digital television stations.

For listeners, the main problem with HD has been the availability of radios capable of receiving HD signals. In the early years, Sangean, Sony and a few others had home tuners, there were no portables, and radios for cars were hit and miss.

More recently, automakers have been adding HD radio to their offerings, aftermarket stereos with HD tuners have improved and become more readily available ... but home tuners became almost nonexistent as Sangean, Sony and the others discontinued all of their HD radio offerings. And portables? Few and far between.
Well Sangean is back in the game with three models introduced in the second half of 2016, and all available by late year. And while I have not reviewed or tested -- or even seen in person -- any of these models, the release of the models may mean that HD Radio is on the upswing.

The HDR-16 is a portable radio that can be used as a clock radio as well. It runs on four C-size batteries or an AC adapter. Sound quality is said to be good, and reception for both analog and digital is said to be excellent. Street price: $100.

The HDR-18 is a table radio/clock radio that runs on AC power only. It features dual alarms, a nice acoustically-tuned wood cabinet, and a manual dimmer for the display. Sound quality and reception are said to be excellent; the one drawback this radio seems to have is the lack of any type of backup for the clock or alarm settings. Sangean dropped the ball on that.

The HDT-20 is a component tuner to be added to a home stereo system, the replacement for the long discontinued but excellent HDT-1 series. As with the HDT-1 and 1X, the HDT-20 features an optical output for direct digital connection to a receiver or similar.

My understanding is that the current chipsets for HD radios are even more selective than even the best of the old, so my hunch is that digital reception on any of these tuners is impressive. Sangean tends to make excellent analog tuners as well ... my HDT-1 and 1X can pick up stations clearly that some tuners can barely receive.

My only problem ... I already own more than my share of HD Radios, so I’ll have to leave it to you for any real reviews. If you happen to own one of these radios or the tuner, please drop me a line and tell me what you think.

And together we can pressure KFI (640 AM) and KABC (790 AM) to bring their HD signals back to the AM band. The HD FM simulcast is just not the same magical experience as when they broadcast HD on AM.

Radio: January 13, 2017

The Project Yellow Light website ( explains: “Hunter Garner had a dry wit, a wicked sense of humor and a creative mind. He loved music, running, and had many friends from all walks of life.”

On June 10, 2007, Garner died in a car crash that killed both him and the driver of the car, his good friend. The cause of the accident? Distracted driving, or driving while using a cell phone.

The Project Yellow Light/Hunter Garner Scholarship was founded as a legacy to Garner by his parents. The goal of the organization is to encourage safe driving habits, and one of the ways it does so is an annual competition open to high school juniors and seniors who plan to attend college as well as college and university undergraduates; high school and college level submissions will be judged and winners selected separately. Entries can be done by teams.

This year Project Yellow Light has added a new category - Radio. There will be one first place prize to be awarded in the High School Contest and the College Contest for a total of two prizes. The winning entrants from each level will each receive a $2,000 scholarship and have the opportunity to be considered for use as the basis for a public service message by the Ad Council, which means the winning entry has the potential to be aired on iHeart radio stations across the nation (iHeart is one of the sponsors of Project Yellow Light).

Interested? Here’s how it works: Create a radio recording that lasts exactly 20 seconds to be heard by young drivers who are new to the road. You have full creative license, though the recording must be in good taste. The website has links for inspiration (invalid as of this writing; hopefully fixed soon) as well as tips for effective radio advertising. The clearer the audio the better ... this is intended for broadcast, after all. Professional grade recording equipment and processing is recommended.

You can also submit entries in the video and billboard divisions as well. Winning entries in those divisions will be featured on billboards and television stations nationwide as well. In addition, all first place winners will receive moving expense gifts valid for 12 months courtesy of U-Haul.

Check out the PYL website for more information and official rules. Entries for the radio contest are due on or before April 1st, finalists will be notified in May, and winners will be chosen by June.

Rams Ratings

Was it due to just being a bad team, was it due to my theory of most fans bypassing radio and just watching games on television, or was it both?

Probably both, as it seems ratings for the Rams were dismal on radio as well as being down on television, One source told me that Sunday game-time ratings on The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) were down as much as 25 percent compared with pre-Rams ratings; on television ratings were down to an average of 8.0 from 8.3 in 2015. Yes, that means ratings were lower with a local team. Reportedly ratings were up on KSPN (710 AM), though that’s not hard to do when you start so low.

For at least twenty years I’ve been told that professional sports on radio (and all-sports formats) garner ratings. I’m still waiting for proof.

Levine Debut

Known as Beaver Cleaver during the 1970s on Ten-Q as well as a premiere television writer, producer and director, Ken Levine made his podcast debut on January 6th. Go to and scroll down to Podcast Episode 1: Hollywood & Levine's Maiden Voyage.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #158

Radio: January 6, 2017
 Joey Reynolds thinks he has the answer. For one hour a week, on both coasts -- the program is simulcast on WABC/New York and on KABC (790 AM) Sunday nights at 6:00 Pacific -- the former top-40 DJ-turned-talk-host has a program that is the opposite of political. Just a guy talking with friends about whatever they want to discuss. Jokes ... cigars ... cities ... anything. Except politics, unless the political topic is humorous.
Reynolds normally broadcasts his program from the WABC studios, but he was in town for a special “Dream Lunch” of current and former people connected with the radio and records industries. Thus he did the show from KABC’s new studios in Culver City on January 1st, and brought along a few of his friends: Shotgun Tom Kelly (ex-KRTH, 101.1 FM), Ken Levine (television writer and ex-KTNQ, 1020 AM), Freddie Snakeskin (ex-KROQ 106.7 FM), Kerri Kasem (KABC; daughter of Casey); “Magic” Matt Alan (SiriusXM ‘70s channel, podcast, and ex-KIIS-FM) Randy West (voiceover talent and game show host) and more.
That’s a lot of guests for an hour show (you might liken it to a phone booth stuffing as done in the 1950s), so most -- including me on my own KABC “debut” -- were only allowed to say a line or two. Kasem was allowed more time to tell and hear stories about her father; overall, though, it was a fun-filled fast-moving hour.
Beginning this week (December 8th), the program will also stream video, so you can see the action as it happens, and determine for yourself if the guests truly have a face for radio ...
Being that the program, officially called The Late Joey Reynolds Show, is new to the local airwaves, I cannot pass judgement yet. But I do think the idea is sound. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Podcast Mania
As it turned out, the KABC studio was filled with people connected with podcasting of some sort, in addition to the online availability of Reynolds show. Alan hosts the tremendously politically incorrect Outlaw Radio, available online ( or via iTunes, RealAudio and the VLC media player) which airs live every Saturday afternoon at 3:00. Unfortunately at press time none of the show links were working; I’ve sent a note to Alan to see what’s wrong.
I host a (usually) weekly podcast with Michael Stark from the LA Radio Studios in San Pedro. Focus? Radio, of course. Generally talking about this very column. Find it at
Levine told me he is ready to launch his own podcast as well, coming soon to a computer or smart phone near you. He says it will be an extension of his online blog ( 
Considering that Levine has been connected with -- as writer or producer -- some amazing television shows (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, The Simpsons, and Wings, to name a few) as well as his experience with some amazing radio stations (Ten-Q and San Diego’s B-100), he has a lot to say. And he says it intelligently and humorously. I can’t wait; I’ll have details when the launch is official.
New Station Coming to Town?
Word on the street is that a construction permit has been issued for long dormant AM frequency 1500 ... address of the old “Super 15” KBLA and the original location of what would become KROQ ... yes, KROQ was originally an AM station.
No word on format plans, but hopefully it will be a music-intensive format in order to attract people back to the AM band. The frequency went “dark” in 1984.
Radio: December 30, 2016
Most people wouldn’t necessarily know the name Art Astor, one of the last independent radio broadcasters in Southern California. But those who knew him knew a man who not only successfully ran a small number of radio stations in the area but at one time had one of the largest private collections of automobiles and auto-related memorabilia in the country. Astor passed away December 7th at the age of 91.
Born Nubar Arthur Astor on April 26, 1925 in Fresno, Astor was General Sales Manager of KHJ (930 AM) from 1965-1970, some of the most profitable years ever for one of the most profitable stations ever. 
In 1970 he left KHJ to become General manager of KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM); in 1972 to moved to Drake-Chenault Enterprises as executive Vice President and General Manager. By 1979 he was able -- with two other investors -- to purchase KORJ/Garden  (which he changed to KIKF/Garden Grove and is now KBUE, 94.3 FM), the station that would become the Flagship for what would become Astor Broadcasting.
Other station were added to the group including stations that are still part of Astor Broadcast Group today: KSPA (1510 AM) and KCEO (1000 AM) in the Inland Empire, and KFSD (1540 AM) in North San Diego County. KIKF was sold in 2004.
Astor was a car fanatic, and started what would eventually become a collection of over 250 collectable automobiles when he purchased a 1967 Jaguar sedan. Additionally, he collected and restored a huge number of vintage radios and telephones. Much of the collection was sold at auction in 2008, though he still held on to a substantial number of his favorites.
Astor passed away after a long battle with cancer, and services were held December 23rd. He was the inspiration for many young broadcasters and behind-the-scenes people who knew him; the phrase “class act” seems to fit him. He is survived by three children and nine grandchildren; his wife of over 50 years passes away in 2014.
Saving AM by Killing It
There are periodic attempts to “save” AM radio, America’s oldest broadcast band. Some ideas are dubious at best, such as the use of FM translators -- low-powered FM transmitters designed to simulcast the AM signal on the FM band. I personally feel that moving kore people to FM is hardly the best way to save AM.
Now comes word that some people and organizations, including a group called the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), are lobbying President-Elect Trump and the FCC to consider just shutting the band down. Few listen to AM anyway, they say, so why not move the existing stations to FM or a new band and use the AM frequencies for something else such as telecommunications.
Sure. Just as cutting off your arm will help make your and feel better.
The problem with AM has little to do with the band itself. Yes, AM has some problems such as man-made and atmospheric interference. Not to mention cheaply-made receivers that cannot do justice to the band. But the primary problem is programming ... there are few reasons to listen. 
Shutting down AM? That’s just a way to convince Trump and the FCC to give free FM frequencies to companies that already cannot program well. Not the best idea.