Sandy Wells

Columns appear in print in the U Entertainment Section of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News

Monday, July 30, 2007

Radio Column July 30, 2007

Listening In

July 30, 2007

By Sandy Wells

KFI news anchor writes and stars in musical about family therapy

In you feel that there’s too much drama in today’s news presentation you may be right. Radio journalists can be as guilty as their colleagues in TV, print and in the blogosphere of sensationalizing stories to capture a bigger audience.

KFI-AM 640’s weekend news anchor Courtney Kramer is ostensibly very aware of the boundaries between news and fiction, or at least is able to separate the two, since she is also a dramatist and actor.

Kramer has turned her journalistic eye to reporting on the fun and foibles of family life in the new musical she co-wrote and stars in, “Mental” now playing in Santa Monica.

The piece is based on a week-long family therapy workshop called the Meadows in Arizona she attended with co-writer Fiona Hogan.

“Mental” is about Mona Clutterbuck, who attends a fictional family workshop much like The Meadows. In order to be treated for her “love addiction,” she is asked to bring in her parents and siblings.

“The parents are basically based on our parents,” says Kramer.

By the end of the week, the Clutterbuck’s secrets about codependency, sex, depression and love addiction are out in the open.

“Love addicts are dealt with a lot in this musical,” explains Kramer. “It’s about people who can’t be alone, who always need to be in a relationship, ‘serial daters.’ If they’re not with someone they’ll just date anyone who happens to be around until someone better comes along.”

She says a lot of problems that afflict individuals are rooted in family issues and one thing that has provided her the most satisfaction is when audience members come back to see the show again with their families.

Kramer studied drama at Drew University and then moved to the “other Hollywood” in Vancouver where she landed some TV acting roles on shows such as “Andromeda.”

After eight years she felt she wasn’t getting enough acting work and enrolled in journalism school. From there she found work at Vancouver’s only all-news station, where thanks to her dual citizenship (her father is Canadian) she was able to hold a full time job. An audition tape sent to KFI got her a job in Los Angeles radio.

She loves working at KFI, the people and the work.

“I love the fact that I can just come to work in my pajamas,” she says. “I love that I can just talk into the microphone and it’s like I’m talking to my friends. I just love coming to work on Saturday. KFI is just such an amazing station to work for and I feel really blessed. I just have to find another one because I’m only working there one day a week.”

Kramer has another project in the works about a stripper who aspires to be a hip hop dancer. She and her partner hope to take the show to Las Vegas.

“Mental” runs at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through August 26th. (310) 392-7327.

Talk radio bias analyzed

We all know conservative points of view dominate talk radio.

That is one of the facts driving a movement among some lawmakers to restore the old Fairness Doctrine in a quest to bring more “balanced” discussions of political and cultural issues to the public’s airwaves.

Conservatives claim their dominance is due to consumer preference and the “free market” of ideas. They say listeners prefer conservative hosts because either they agree with them or they find them more entertaining than liberals or “progressives.”

A new study, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” published jointly by the nonpartisan Center for American Progress and Free Press confirms conservatism’s dominance in talk radio but challenges the view that consumer preference alone is the cause. They say it’s more about concentration of ownership in the hands of a few large corporations.

News/talk radio’s influence is huge, attracting over 50 million American listeners a week on the more than 1,700 stations dedicated to the format.

The study found that their “analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.”

Here in the Los Angeles/Orange County market, the study found that conservative content outweighed progressive content 69 to 31 percent.

The authors conclude that if station ownership caps were restored, local ownership increased, and more accountability required of broadcasters to retain licenses conservative radio would be less dominant than it is today.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Radio Column July 1, 2007

Listening In

July 1, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Anti-Illegal immigration firebrand Kevin James returns on KRLA

Kevin James is happy to be back on the air in Los Angeles. The former overnight talk host and anti-illegal immigration firebrand was let go from his job at KABC-AM 790 about a month after Marc “Mr. KABC” Germain exited the station to take over afternoon drive on “Progressive Talk” KTLK-AM 1150.

“I’m very satisfied with the way things worked out,” said Kevin. “I was off the air for seven weeks. A lot of people think that is a short time. But there were a lot of things happening in the news. I wasn’t able to comment on them on a daily basis. That was frustrating. The timing was right for me to get another job.”

Kevin is also very happy with the people at KRLA and with his new schedule, weeknights from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The native of Oklahoma developed a large following in the wee hours on KABC. Many stayed up just to hear his latest take on the red hot illegal immigration (he’s against it) debate.

“I am going to stay on immigration. But there are other important issues that affect this city, such as what’s going on at City Hall and crime. And even crime is connected to the illegal immigration in many ways. I find the problem of the local politics fascinating and I like to spend a lot of time on that.”

Kevin says word of mouth across the Internet is helping direct his fans to his new radio home on KRLA. It also doesn’t hurt that he got a plug from fellow talk show host Marc Germain who took the time to inform his KTLK listeners about Kevin’s new radio home on KRLA.

“A lot of my ‘Red Eye Radio’ audience seems to have found me. I find that through my call screeners and I get a lot of emails from people who listened to me on KABC.”

Kevin came to LA in 1988 to work for a large law firm. He then spent three years as an assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles, which provided him an invaluable education on the workings of local government. Following that he litigated a number of high-profile entertainment cases as a private attorney. And after his legal expertise was called upon as a guest on Al Rantel’s show on KABC, he got hooked on radio.

“A lot of people say now that the best journalists are not coming out of journalism school but out of law school,” he explained, adding that an education in law is also excellent training for a talk show host.

Despite the University of Oklahoma’s devotion to his alma mater’s football team – he was a cheerleader there while in college – he feels the strongest ties here in his adopted home.

“I’m so glad I got to stay in Southern California radio. I’ve been here most of my adult life – except for the ten months I spent as the morning host in Oklahoma City. But I’m much more knowledgeable about this area so it’s much better for me to work here as far as the quality of the product.”

Gay-themed station debuts on HD radio

LA’s first gay and lesbian oriented radio station is now broadcasting on HD radio’s channel 104.3-HD2. This is the HD channel for hot adult contemporary music station KBIG-FM 104.3 and is run by Clear Channel Communications.

The Pride Radio channel is featuring mixes from artists such as Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Scissor Sisters. “Divas” Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Janet Jackson are also deemed representative of the new station’s mix. KBIG plays a lot of disco music often associated with the gay clubs of the 70s and 80s, so it is a fitting companion station for people willing to buy an HD radio for their home or car, or are can listen online.

Pride Radio is hosted by personalities Ryan and Caroline, who are being promoted as radio’s equivalent to “Will and Grace.” The two present “Coming Out” listener stories, film reviews, travel, style, health, and celebrity gossip with US Weekly Senior Editor, Albert Lee. Ryan and Caroline will interview gay celebrities and gay icons as well.

“For the first time in LA Radio History, our GLBT Community has a local radio source to turn to for content specific to their entertainment interests,” said Program Director, Dave “Chachi” Denes. “With one of the largest gay communities in the country, I’m certain that Pride Radio LA, with its appealing music and entertainment content, will be well received by not only by our alternative lifestyle listeners but by our community in general.”

You can listen to Pride Radio with any HD Radio receiver at 104.3-2 or online at

Fairness Doctrine debated at Museum of TV and Radio

With many in Congress expressing frustration over the failure to pass reform immigration legislation, some are blaming the power of talk radio. They want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine to life, which they say will enforce the airing of opposing views on the nation's radio stations and thus tame popular conservative talk show hosts.

KPCC-FM 89.3’s Patt Morrison (weekdays, 2p.m.3 p.m.) hosted a discussion of the thorny and complex issue. She was joined by about a dozen people gathered in the small visitor lounge that surrounds the museums handsome glass-enclosed broadcast booth.

The May 29 broadcast marked the twenty year anniversary of the doctrine’s demise at the hands of President Ronald Reagan, who vetoed Congress’ attempt to restore it after a court ruling struck it down. For 38 years before that the doctrine had mandated that broadcasters offer equal time for the expression of opposing views expressed on a station’s airwaves. The practical effect of this was that broadcasters avoided controversy, partly out for fear of losing their broadcast license at renewal time. At the same time, radio and TV operators were at pains to prove to the government that they were serving the public interest by providing news coverage of their coverage area and broadcasting programs about community issues.

(L-R, KPCC's Patt Morrison, KABC's Doug McIntyre, Simon Wilkie from USC. Photo By Sandy Wells)

That ended in 1987. Ironically, at that time many conservatives feared that the dominence of the liberal media would further marginalize their political views. But the effect was just the opposite. Since then conservative firebrands such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity, have blazed new trails on the AM band and caused some to wonder since if the whole thing wasn’t some conservative plot to obliterate liberalism and the Democratic Party. And local news budgets have been slashed since license renewal has become a perfunctory, “rubber stamp” process.

Joining her inside the little studio was Doug McIntyre, morning talk show host from KABC-AM 790 and Simon Wilkie, Director of the Center for Communications Law and Policy at the USC School of Law. On the phone, was KTLK-AM 1150 mid-morning host Thom Hartmann, who is based in Portland, Ore. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who wants to restore some semblance of the Fairness Doctrine.

Sanders weighed in saying that the most significant development is concentration of media ownership. He said the public should not be fooled by the apparent abundance of cable, satellite and media outlets. He says most are held by a small number of owners who all share the same interests.

“What is the responsibility of the owner to the people? Right now it's to make as much money as possible.”

Hartmann said that when he worked as a news director thirty years ago, everyone understood that news was there to serve the public and that broadcasters underwrote its costs in return for the privilege of having a broadcast license granted to them by the government.

McIntyre said restoring the Fairness Doctrine would stifle public debate and amount to government censorship of political discourse. He also doesn’t buy the underlying premise of the Fairness Doctrine, which is that since the broadcast spectrum is limited, it must be regulated.

“Technology has changed the landscape,” added McIntrye. “With podcasting and XM and Sirius, a thousand other ways of broadcasting, why are we applying these ‘putting the genie back in the bottle’ standards to terrestrial radio when in fact we’re sharing a smaller and smaller amount of the audience with all these alternatives?”

“Let the public decide what they want to hear, said McIntrye.

Sanders countered that the rise of the conservatives on talk radio is no accident, and that while he doesn’t deny that people like Rush Limbaugh are very talented, they are basically there to say the things the owners of the media conglomerates want said “and that they are saying things that their advertisers are sympathetic to.”

You can hear the full broadcast by going to and clicking on the Patt Morrison show icon.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Radio Column May 27, 2007

Listening In

May 27, 2007

By Sandy Wells

KSCA’s Piolín pushes immigration reform with letters and calls

Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, morning host for KSCA-FM 101.9, and one of the prime movers behind last year’s massive demonstration for immigrant rights in Los Angeles, is taking a new tact in his campaign to change the politician’s minds about the red hot issue of immigration: He’s helping to mount an old-fashioned signature drive.

Broadcasting from the Mexican Consulate near downtown Los Angeles last week, the popular DJ encouraged listeners to come by and sign letters asking members of Congress to support “fair and just immigration reform” for the more than 12 million immigrants estimated to be residing in the U.S. illegally.

(RIGHT) Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, morning host for KSCA-FM 101.9, Marcela Luévanos, 11 a.m. -3 p.m., KSCA-FM 101.9 broadcasting from the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, May 17

His goal is to gather a million letters through his national campaign working with other radio stations and personally take them to Washington, D.C. next month. The plan is to organize a caravan and drive across the country while continuing with his regular morning broadcasts.

“I’ve been receiving a lot of calls from children who don’t have their dad or their mom, because even though they were working they got deported because they don’t have the documentation,” explained Piolín. “That touched my heart, because to see a baby or children crying hurts a lot. Especially when the dad is working; they already have a job. They don’t do anything bad to the nation.

What we’re looking for is to just make people understand that we came here to succeed. We came here to make the nation better. What we’re doing to make it happen is we’re working, doing the best that we can do, learning the language. We’re respecting the laws of the United States – now that we’re here.”

Piolin says the biggest change from last year’s organizing efforts has been the switch from mass demonstrations to gathering letters and making calls for our representatives in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve been learning the different ways for immigration reform. Last year, I didn’t know that it was important to take letters; or the phone calls that we can make, to the Congress. I don’t know that.”

He says KSCA is working with the Hispanic broadcasting network, Univision, to bring experts to immigrant communities who can show people how to fill out applications for citizenship and help study for the citizenship tests. To help listeners learn more about the U.S., Piolin has a regular feature called “Who Wants to Be a Citizen?” where he invites the audience to answer a multiple choice question that might be on the test.

Píolin says the immigrants he speaks for “just want to be part of the family of this great nation.”

Talkers gather in Bel Air

Four top talk show hosts gathered earlier this month for a Talk Radio Seminar hosted by the American Jewish University in Bel Air. Joining the fray hosted by retired radio newsman Bill Moran were Bill Handel, morning host for KFI-AM 640, Thom Hartmann, 9 a.m.-12 noon KTLK-AM “Progressive Talk” 1150, Dennis Prager, 9 a.m.-12 noon, KRLA-AM 870 and Doug McIntyre, morning host for KABC-AM 790.

McIntyre, looking very proper in a suit drew laughs from the capacity crowd of 500 gathered in the auditorium at the school’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education, chided his colleagues for dressing down for the event with casual attire.

The discussion was wide-ranging, full of acerbic quips, witty repartee and a few heartfelt monologues about the media, culture, immigration, Iraq and the trials and tribulations of the talk radio business.

Thom Hartmann, the new kid in LA radio – his show is broadcast from his home base in Oregon – and the only liberal on the panel said the No. 1 topic on his show that week was the impeachment of President Bush.

Handel, who admitted to voting for President Bush twice, called him an “utterly failed President.”

Dennis Prager admitted that he was one of the few conservatives who did not call for the impeachment of President Clinton back in the 90s.

On a lighter note, Prager admitted that the main reason he went to 9 a.m. was that it forces him to “get up before noon.”

“I’m a night person,” Prager said. “My favorite radio time was nine to midnight. I do all my work at night. I’m at my best then, I love it. But radio is more of a daytime venue.”

(LEFT) Talk Radio Seminar at the American Jewish University Whizin Center for Continuing Education in Bel Air, May 6 (L-R) Bill Handel, morning host for KFI-AM 640, Thom Hartmann, 9 a.m.-12noon KTLK-AM 1150, Dennis Prager, 9 a.m.-12 noon, KRLA-AM 870, Doug McIntyre, morning host for KABC-AM 790

K-Earth 101 Beach Party at Belmont Shore

K-Earth 101.1 (KRTH-FM 101.1) is hosting a “Kruis-In” Beach Party in Belmont Shore next to the Belmont Plaza Pool June 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate three and a half decades of playing the “greatest hits on earth.”

The Beatles tribute band The Fab Four will perform live Beatle faves and K-Earth 101 personalities Gary Bryan, Samantha Stander, Lisa Stanley, Jim Carson, Joshua Escandon, Christina Kelley, Dave Randall, Bruce Chandler and Sylvia Aimerito will be broadcasting live. There’ll be food, refreshments, custom cars and fun for the family. It’s a free event. You can find out more at

Arbitron's Winter Ratings

LA's Top 20 Stations*

1. KSCA-FM 10.9 Regional Mexican
2. KIIS-FM 102.7 Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40
3. KLVE-FM 107.5 Spanish Contemporary
4. KFI-AM 640 Talk
5. KLAX-FM 97.9 Regional Mexican
6. KOST-FM 103.5 Adult Contemporary/Soft Rock
6. KROQ-FM 106.7 (tie) Alternative Rock
6. KPWR-FM 105.9 (tie) Hip Hop/Rhythmic
9. KBUE-FM 105.5/94.3 Regional Mexican
10. KRTH-FM 101.1 Oldies
11. KCBS-FM 93.1 Classic Rock Hits
12. KTWV-FM 94.7 Smooth Jazz/R&B
13. KRCD-FM 103.9/98.3 Spanish Oldies
14. KXOL-FM 96.3 Latin Rhythmic
15. KHHT-FM 92.3 Urban Adult Contemporary/R&B
16. KLOS-FM 95.5 Classic Rock (tie)
16. KYSR-FM 98.7 Hot Adult Contemporary/Pop Alternative
18. KABC-AM 790 News/Talk
18. KSSE-FM 107.1 Latin Pop
20. KBIG-FM 104.3 Hot Adult Contemporary/Disco Classics

*among listeners 12-plus, Mon-Sun, 6 a.m.-midnight, ranked by Average Quarterly Hour Share of listeners

Monday, May 07, 2007

Radio Column May 6, 2007

Listening In

May 06, 2007

By Sandy Wells

A new look at radio’s ‘silver age’ of rock music and rebellion

After the arrival of television in the late 1940s, the assumption among the media elite in Manhattan was that radio would soon go the way of sheet music, home pianos, and vaudeville halls. Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher has written “Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation” (Random House), a highly entertaining account of the offbeat personalities and innovators who rescued radio and took it to new heights.

A self-described devotee of radio, Fisher nonetheless writes with a nostalgic bent, sometimes sounding like a guy describing his return to his hometown after many years and finds his high school sweetheart married with kids and not looking quite like the beauty he remembered.

Fisher writes, “It’s hard to find a radio executive who does not concede – privately, with the notebook closed – that radio has become boring and predictable, that stations sound the same no matter where you are, and that the consistent decline in the amount of time Americans spend listening to radio is disturbing.”

Fisher is very good at describing radio’s resilience in the years after TV came on the scene, the innovators such as legendary Top 40 pioneers Todd Storz and Gordon McLendon, who grabbed the reigns of the medium as it careened out of its Golden Age preeminence and steered it into what I would call its “Silver Age” of local format radio. But he also weaves into his narrative a litany of complaints – familiar to fans and observers of the industry: The stifling of creativity by consultants, the endless belt-tightening due to deregulation and ownership consolidation; the end of localism, and the demise of the great personality DJs who, with their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants exploits in promoting themselves and the music, changed America forever.

Fisher is right on the money in his analysis of talk radio, which really was and is the second wave of the revolution. The best talk show hosts, Tom Leykis, Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, Glenn Beck and Howard Stern, worked their way up the radio food chain as DJs, adapting the rhythm and tempo of Top 40 into the spoken word format:

“They move quickly from bit to bit, connecting with the essential minutiae of daily life, hitting listeners’ emotional cores, never getting in too deep. They might do politics or eschew it entirely, but the format stays the same. David Letterman – another former Top 40 jock (boss Radio 57 in Muncie, Indiana, 1969) – follows the same rules on his late-night TV show: a slam-bam torrent of bits and jingles, always promoting the next feature, with bursts of familiar music to introduce and end each item.”

As an aside, Fisher quotes a radio executive who accurately points out that the key to the success of the Top 40 radio format was its effectiveness in combining a predictable context with unpredictable content.

To appreciate this fine and passionate account of radio over the last fifty years, it’s best not to look for any unifying argument as to why radio is where it is, or is where it shouldn’t be. Fisher is at his best in telling the stories behind the stars and revealing the special quality that made each one stand out in a crowded field: R&B DJ Hunter Hancock in Los Angeles, late-nigh talker Jean Sheppard in New York, progressive FM rock pioneer Tom Donahue in San Francisco and Pasadena, in addition to the national talk stars such as Stern, Leykis, Limbaugh and Garrison Keillor .

Fisher also touches on some of the African-American radio pioneers such as legendary East Coast DJ Hal Jackson and Howard University’s foray into commercial radio with WHUR-FM in Washington, DC. But he leaves out any mention of NBN, the National Black Network, the first black-owned coast-to-coast radio network founded in 1973, which eventually merged with its competitor, the Sheridan Broadcasting Network to form American Urban Radio Networks.

Fisher is perhaps most illuminating in describing how the politics of the late 1960s shaped the views of National Public Radio’s first program director, Bill Siemering. The former history and English teacher was the professional manager of the University of Buffalo radio station. Seeking to go beyond the glib “banality” of commercial radio news, he brought radio microphones directly into the community following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Later, at NPR he developed its now signature long-form reporting and pioneered in the sort of continuous coverage of major events which has been adopted by the 24-hour cable news networks. In 1971, NPR launched its first national program, “All Things Considered.” All this was created from the leftover crumbs of funding that Congress allocated to public television when it started the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Here again, Fisher finds success eventually blurring the product's uniqueness. NPR is now grasping to regain its footing in the soulless world of consultants and research.

In the end, Fisher is wise enough to admit that “Radio isn’t what it used to be, but it never really was." It still has a future “in the voices of those who open their souls into a microphone, and in the imaginations of those who feel compelled to listen.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Imus Fired

April 15, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Imus: Video Killed the Radio Star (Again)

(photo: Don Imus in his heyday)

The Imus in the Morning Show finally hit a big enough pothole to reveal the ever thinning tread he was riding on. His crude, racist remark about the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team after their loss to Tennessee caused his program to veer off the road, crash and burn last week.

Imus was especially vulnerable because his program was simulcast on the MSNBC cable TV network. This is the same news network that fired Michael Savage for lashing out against gay men. Without cable TV exposure, Imus’ remarks would probably have dodged the political and cultural firestorm. Mainstream TV has far less tolerance for speaking the politically unspeakable phrase than radio. Today, impolitic remarks captured on video can be mercilessly replayed again and again on TV and circulated on web browsers.

Savage kept his radio show, however. On another occasion, Rush Limbaugh was fired from his job as color commentator for ABC’s Monday Night Football for suggesting that quarterback Donovan McNabb got special treatment because he was black. Limbaugh’s radio show survived, too. Why didn’t Imus’?

I suspect our country may be suffering from a subconscious paroxysm of guilt and confusion over the war in Iraq and its racist overtones. Firing Imus is a sacrifice to that God of political correctness, that American need to believe that we are ever overcoming our prejudiced past and can therefore maintain our moral standards.

Imus made his mark in radio the early 70s New York radio as America was mired in another war with racist undertones: Vietnam. Back then, his downbeat, irreverent, white trash persona was a hit on the East Coast. Life magazine did a story touting him as possible successor to Johnny Carson as host of the Tonight Show. Imus’ bits were brazen for their time; making fun of preachers through his alter-ego Reverend Billy Sol Hargis, pretending to be a general calling up Burger King and ordering 2,500 hamburgers to go for his troops, driving the hapless fast food worker to distraction with special orders, spoofing the fast food chain’s claim as the burger place where you could always “have it your way.” Imus put the edge back in AM radio as progressive rock and disco erased AM top 40s radio’ relevance.

Is Imus a racist? Possibly, despite the fact that he once aspired to be an R&B singer, he is. But then, most of us carry some racial issues under the surface. Racist notions can reveal when an individual or society feels fear or stress, as in the case of comedian Michael Richards, or be exposed by careless, off the cuff attempts to be funny, as in the case of Imus.

Back in the 70s, humor became the coin of the realm for the disappointed idealists of the 60s. Dark humor, sarcastic quips, cruel, ridiculing sketches, all helped a nation work through the traumas of the 60s’ assassinations, wars, failed protests and frightening riots.

Decades later, new attitudes are displacing most of the cultural and political attitudes of that time. Humor has ceased to be accepted as it once was, as a release valve for the pent up aggressions of disappointed idealists and reformers of the 60s.

In the late 80s, Imus successfully segued from morning shock jock on top 40 WNBC to the jocular patter on WFAN. While doing a general talk show on the otherwise sports talk station, he started to build a following among the Washingtonian elite; mostly white middle-aged men who as guests of the I-man felt at ease with his goofy asides and a cozy, almost insular, locker room sensibility. They appreciated him all the more as his show became syndicated across the country on more than 60 stations. WFAN was ultimately a guy talk station after all and the white male managerial class loved him.

But younger people don’t get Imus. This is an earnest time, with fierce competition everywhere and a war on terror. Many young people are quietly walking away from the cynicism of the Vietnam generation.

As Talkers magazine editor Michael Harrison told KNX reporter Dick Skelton last week, Imus was just an older guy attempting to sound hip by using African-American slang.

As for CBS Radio, the executives who decided to fire Imus are now faced with replacing a great talent in a business that is having a very hard time imagining its future.

Locally, Imus was carried on KLAC-AM 570 until a few years ago. As of this writing, KCAA-AM 1050 in San Bernardino was planning on replaying “Best of Imus” shows until further notice, according to General Manager, Daren Lane.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Listening In

April 6, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Peter Tilden returns to KABC as late-night host

Popular radio personality Peter Tilden is reviving his act in a new night-time version, starting this Monday on talk station KABC-AM 790. The former KZLA-FM 93.9 country music wake-up man’s new show is billed as “America’s Earliest Morning Show with Peter Tilden.”

Tilden arrived in LA at KLSX-FM 97.1 back in 1988, vaulting from a part-time radio gig in Philadelphia to mornings in the nation’s No. 2 market. He lasted only eight months but he made a strong enough impression to be hired by KABC. Tilden was eventually paired with the late Tracey Miller first in the afternoons and later on the morning show for KMPC (later KTZN). He returned to KABC to join Ken Minyard on the morning show in 1996 before going to KZLA until that station flipped to pop/rhythmic “Movin’ 93.9” KMVN-FM in 2006.

“I’m thrilled to be back at KABC and working with a lot of the great people I’ve worked with before from salespeople and engineers to programming personnel and management,” said Tilden.

KABC says Tilden’s new show will feature interviews, phone calls and topics that listeners might not expect from a traditional evening show in a style that has become synonymous with Tilden throughout his career.

“I am very happy to be able to bring Peter back to KABC Radio, where he is so familiar to our listeners. Peter is a creative person and he has some great ideas for this late night show. I know people are going to make an appointment to hear him every night,” said KABC Operations Director, Erik Braverman.

Tilden’s program will air from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., following the Mark Levin Show which has been expanded to two hours.

Michael Savage returns to AM 830

When KRLA-AM 870’s hired comedian Dennis Miller last month for the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot, it moved conservative political firebrand Michael Savage to a later time slot beginning at 9 p.m. Savage has accordingly taken his program to talk station KLAA-AM 830 where his show can now be heard live from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday afternoon. The “Savage Nation” was introduced to LA several years ago on the same frequency when the call letters were KPLS. KLAA is owned by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team.

K-Jazz’s new management

Long beach public radio station KKJZ-FM 88.1 “K-Jazz” will be officially under the wing of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasting effective April 21. The ratification of the agreement between the commercial broadcaster and the California State University, Long Beach Foundation was announced by Mt. Wilson President Saul Levine.

“We’re thrilled to be taking on another opportunity to serve a wide audience deserving of high quality programming,” said Levine. “Our goal is to turn KKJZ into the nation’s number one public provider of jazz radio. (But) rest assured that KKJZ will remain a mainstream jazz and blues station.”

Levine, one of LA’s pioneer FM broadcasters, ran a jazz format on KKGO 105.1 FM for 29 years, said, “While staying true to the format’s deep musical heritage, we will endeavor to integrate the latest artists to maintain the relevance and viability of the genre, and to best serve the community.”

Levine will run K-Jazz through his new affiliate, Global Jazz, Inc. He said KKJZ will present the station’s annual Blues Festival in Long Beach this year on September 1 and 2.

Locally, Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters owns stations K-Mozart AM 1260 and “Go Country” KKGO-FM 105.1/AM 540.

Mark of Mark and Brian Show in film

Mark Thompson of KLOS-FM 95.5’s Mark and Brian Show premiered as an actor in the feature film he wrote, “Mother Ghost” this week at Universal Studio Hollywood. Appearing with noted actors Dana Delaney, Charles Durning, Joe Mantegna, Kevin Pollak, Jere Burns, Garry Marshall, David Keith and James Franco, Thompson has garnered some film festival awards and critical praise. In the movie, Thompson plays a man in a marriage teetering on the brink of collapse following the death of his mother. A radio psychiatrist (played by Pollak) helps Thompson’s character put his life back together.

Star 98.7’s new voice at night

KYSR-FM 98.7 Star 98.7 has completed its full-time talent roster with the addition of Summer James to the 7 p.m. to midnight slot.

James began her radio career at WKZQ-FM in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where she moved up to evening personality and music director. Most recently, she was with rocker KCAL-FM 96.7 in San Bernardino/Riverside.

Her talents have also extended to hosting on-camera Red Carpet events at the Emmy’s and Oscars in addition to various TV programs.

Rick Dees helps Girl Scouts

I had to be impressed when KMVN-FM 93.9 Movin 93.9’s morning man Rick Dees offered to help out any Girl Scouts tuned in who were struggling to meet their Girl Scout cookie quotients in the annual sales ritual. Dees told one lucky scout who got through that he was going to buy $1000 worth of Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, Samoas, Trefoils, etc. from her. The scout was pretty happy, but it took the mother to get on the phone for Dees to hear the response he wanted; joy mixed with disbelief. Dees may have to eat them all himself, if he wants to live up to his image on the new Movin’ 93.9 TV ad, where his derriere is greatly enhanced with computer animation.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Radio Column March 23, 2007

Listening In

March 23, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Radio execs weigh future of talk radio at R&R convention

Hundreds of radio folks, from big stars and major league executives to wannabes looking to get connected – and everyone in between – converged at the Radio and Records Talk Radio convention in Marina Del Rey earlier this month.

There were the annual awards given by Radio and Records, the well-respected industry newspaper: KFI-AM 640 morning man Bill Handel won “News/Talk Local Personality of the Year” – and syndicated Art Bell (KFI, Sundays, 10 p.m. - 5 a.m.) came away with the “News/Talk Lifetime Industry Achievement Award. KFI tied with KGO-AM 810 in San Francisco for “News/Talk Station of the Year” while Rush Limbaugh (KFI, weekdays, 9 a.m. - noon) earned his fourth “Syndicated News/Talk Personality of the Year Award.”

KFI's Bill Handel

The Internet continued to impact the business and consequently was a recurring topic of discussion at the various panels and roundtables at the convention.

R&R Talk Radio Editor Al Peterson told me that he sees radio executives this year are adopting a more realistic attitude in their estimation of new technologies’ impact on their business and livelihoods.

“There was far more embracing of technology and less pie-in-the-sky attitudes than I’ve seen in previous conventions as far as what technology is worth spending time and resources on,” said Peterson of the increasingly sophisticated use of podcasting and web sites by radio stations.

Peterson said he attends many music radio conventions and believes that the guys spinning the hits may be encountering bigger challenges than talk radio in terms of coping with new technologies. He said as long as the “spoken word” format continues to deliver compelling, unique programs and personalities that people want to hear, the format will continue to thrive. Music radio on the other hand, faces more direct competition from iPods, MP3 players, Internet downloads and websites such as iTunes and Rhapsody.

Dennis Miller set for radio debut on KRLA

The Dennis Miller Show will launch from New York on 80 stations starting Monday. Locally, the comedian and TV host/commentator will be heard on news/talk station KRLA-AM 870 weeknights, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., followed by Michael Savage, until 11 p.m. Miller said he plans to broadcast his show from his Santa Barbara home when he’s not on the road with his standup comedy act and speaking engagements.

Miller was the keynote speaker at a Friday luncheon at the R&R Talk Radio Convention held at the Marriott. While delivering a bevy of laugh lines, the “Saturday Night Live” alum reassured the radio folks that he’s serious about his foray into radio as a syndicated host for his new Westwood One show and is not a just a “carpetbagger.”

KFI-AM 640 evening host John Ziegler was in the audience. He asked Miller the question on everyone’s mind: can the former star of “Saturday Night Live” translate his comedy and personality to the radio medium.

Miller admitted he had a lot to learn and said he looked to guys like Ziegler as “templates” for doing a good radio talk show. He said he had filled in on Jim Bohannon’s talk show – also on Westwood One – and felt confident that his show will be a success.

KABC host Mark Levin doesn’t suffer fools … or liberals

Talk radio station KABC-AM 790’s Mark Levin was at the R&R Talk Radio Convention visiting from his home base in New York where he’s heard on sister station WABC-AM 770.

WABC Program Director Phil Boyce said Levin is successful because he comes out of the gate “firing on all cylinders” at 6 p.m. on the New York station, where he has been successful in competing with Michael Savage.

“He always comes up with something new. Otherwise it’s going to be a just a re-hash of what Rush and Sean have already said and that’s not going to get us ratings. I put him on (WABC) in the summer of 2003. We always had a struggle at 6 p.m. Now he holds on to one hundred percent of the Rush and Sean lead-in.”

The former Reagan administration official says he takes his audience seriously.

“People underestimate the radio audience all the time. I do not. I talk about history. I talk about the constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I’ll talk about the law. You just have to do it in an entertaining way and connect it to events. The public is very, very smart. They know a guy who’s full of crap. They know a guy’s who’s faking it. We’re in a very tough time slot anywhere from 6 to 11 o’clock. And we do very well and the reason we do well is we have a conversation – well, unless it’s a liberal lunatic. But otherwise I have a conversation with the audience and I bring something different to the table.”

As for why he is so intolerant of liberal callers – often shouting “get off the phone you big dope!” – Levin explains that those people have nothing of interest to offer his audience.

“I’ve never suffered fools well and I consider the whole liberal philosophy to be a philosophy of fools. So unless people want to call and have a real conversation, I don’t spend a lot of time talking to them. If they want to call with their same damn talking points as before I don’t want to hear it and I know nobody else wants to hear it.”

Although he doesn’t model his show on any particular host Levin says he was inspired by Bob Grant, Jean Sheppard, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and he’s been a talk radio listener since he was 12 or 13.

In Los Angeles, Levin’s show will expand to two hours starting next week on KABC, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Boston tribute with Uncle Joe Benson on KLOS-FM

This Sunday at 9 p.m., KLOS-FM 95.5’s Uncle Joe Benson will air a special tribute edition of “Off the Record” to the music of the legendary rock band Boston. The program will feature archival audio from Benson’s extensive conversations with the band’s late singer, Brad Delp.

Go Country adds new talent

The new KKGO-FM 105.1 “Go Country” has added another local DJ to its daytime lineup. Todd Baker, an 18-year radio vet has worked at many stations from coast-to-coast, including stints at LA’s KBIG-FM 104.3 and KLSX-FM 97.1. Before joining “Go Country” as the afternoon host, Baker was president of programming/network general manager and on-air host at National Lampoon Radio heard on XM satellite radio channel 154.