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

Friday, January 27, 2006

Radio Column January 20, 2006

KNX offers more advice on consumer and money matters

News/talk station KNX-AM 1070 is offering more financial advice by adding an hour to its successful midday consumer call-in show “Money 101” with host Bob McCormick. The program now starts an hour earlier at 9 a.m. weekday mornings. David G. Hall, KNX vice president of AM programming for Infinity Radio in Los Angeles, also named veteran KNX correspondent Frank Mottek host of the “The KNX Business Hour” from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The moves should bolster KNX as a go-to place for useful expert advice and “answers.”

(Frank Mottek, KNX photo)

“The new three-hour time slot will allow us to increase the amount of consumer news we deliver,” Hall said of Money 101. “The program has become increasingly popular because it gives listeners relevant information on consumer topics. Bob tells the audience how to save money, whether it's a discount airfare or an unclaimed property search.”

The programming compliments KNX’s weekend midday call-in block beginning with “Food News” with Melinda Lee (Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon) and “Computer News” with Jeff Levy (Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 2 p.m.).

KOST dominates fall listening with help of Christmas music

Holiday music on KOST-FM 103.5 (“The Coast”) once again proved to be a big draw for Southland listeners, according to the latest Arbitron audience estimates of listeners age 12 and over. The soft rock favorite rose to the top spot in overall listening. Soft adult Spanish-language station KLVE-FM 107.5 followed very close behind at No. 2, followed by the summer’s top station, top 40 KIIS-FM 102.7 at No. 3. Talk radio from the likes of Bill Handel, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura and John and Ken helped place KFI-AM 640 at No. 4, then fifth place alternative rock KROQ-FM 106.7 and Mexican Regional KSCA-AM 101.9 at No. 6. Last year’s biggest newcomer, the reggaeton/hip hop “Spanglish” station KXOL-FM 96.3 (“Latino 96.3”) slipped a bit, from a tie at No. 2 last summer to No. 7. Hip hop powerhouse KPWR-FM 105.9 (“Power 106”) also took a pretty dramatic hit, slipping from a tie for fourth place to No. 8. Mexican Regional KLAX-FM 97.9 dropped one place to No. 9 and smooth jazz “The Wave” climbed back into the top ten at No. 10. Last year’s other big newcomer, adult hits “Jack FM” KCBS-FM 93.1 seems to have lost some of its appeal, falling from No. 9 to No. 11. “Jack” boasts variety and unpredictability, but perhaps it loses some of the impact of that with the solitary presence of Howard Cogan, the Canadian voice over artist whose wry, sarcastic attitude provides the “image” of the station rather than a schedule of DJs.

Arbitron’s sample of the LA market’s roughly 10.8 million potential listeners that among the talk stations, Clear Channel’s KFI was again in first place, followed by Disney-owned KABC-AM 790, Infinity’s KLSX-FM 97.1 and KNX-AM 1070 (which has become nearly all-talk), Salem’s KRLA-AM 870 and Clear Channel’s “Progressive” KTLK-AM 1150.

In morning drive, KSCA’s Píolin lead the pack, with Bill Handel on KFI, Kevin and Bean on KROQ, KIIS’ Ryan Seacrest and KLVE’s “El Show de Omar y Argelia” making up the rest of the top five. Classic rock KLOS-FM’s Mark and Brian continued to grow their audience share, gaining three tenths of a point to go from No. 11 to No. 10.

KOST made huge gains in midday listening, a time the industry typically considers the “listen at work” period, jumping 1.7 points from a tie at No. 6 to No.1. Other stations top stations between 10 p.m. and 3 p.m. were KLVE (No. 2) with Sofía Soria and KFI (No. 3) with Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Listening In January 6, 2006

Top Stories of 2005

by Sandy Wells

Stern leaves terrestrial radio

As Howard Stern (KLSX-FM 97.1) spent the year trumpeting his impending departure to the freer speech venue of Sirius satellite radio, the congress simultaneously seemed to lose all interest in levying those half-million dollar fines it had threatened after the 2004 Super bowl Janet Jackson breast reveal that induced lawmakers to notice naughty language heard on radio. In the end it’s hard to say who won the battle over the right to be free from indecency versus the right to freely express yourself even if it offends others.

Jack FM

It’s the music stupid! I always want to shout that when I hear radio people scratch their heads in wonder about the defection of listeners to XM and Sirius subscription satellite radio. But here on earth, Jack’s impressive debut of mostly 80s and 90s pop, rock and soul in place of “Arrow 93” on KCBS-FM 93.1 proved that, like Detroit auto makers, big terrestrial radio stations can still reap rewards when they dare to think out of the box. For commercial radio, the pseudo-eclectic mix is a well-brewed revelation, prompting other LA stations to stop gazing at their bellybuttons and have a little fun playing records, for a change.

Salem Celebrates 20 Years in Los Angeles

Religion continues to pound its way back into public discourse in to a level probably not heard since Aimee Semple McPherson broadcast on KFSG in the 1920s. One of the main players in this movement has been Salem Communications which has labored to move God talk from the Sunday morning broadcast ghetto to a full-spectrum presence in radio. This year, its first LA station, KKLA-FM 99.5 celebrated 20 years in the business of successfully preaching the Word of God in and around supposedly god-less Hollywood.

Payola rocks radio

Bribing a program director to play a worthless single so that it will be a hit? Leave to an intrepid New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to shake-out the payola shenanigans and fine the offenders. While rock music lovers migrate by the millions to un-free satellite radio to get some satisfaction, corporate bean counters at the 1200-station Clear Channel Empire and elsewhere have been finally getting around to experimenting with smaller commercial loads and more interesting mixes of music.

Latino radio blazes to top

It’s a bilingual world out there and this year LA got its first Spanish-English, or “Spanglish” station: KXOL-FM “Latino 96.3.” It shot to the top (or very near) just months after its launch in the spring with a mix of Reggaeton and hip hop/R&B. The battle for cultural dominance in Southern California appears, for the time being, to have ended in a Mexican standoff.

570-690 swap

The “Fabulous 570” (KLAC) moved to 690 and “XTRA Sports” 690 changed its frequency to 570. AM 570 continues to carry the Lakers but has made little headway in creating a sports identity. Afternoon host Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton was relegated to part-time, comedian Phil Hendrie was moved over from sister station KFI-AM 640 to fill the time at night when the Lakers are off, and a wacky Chicago dynamo named “Mancow” was hired to be the morning show. Comedy may prove to be LA’s most popular “sport.”

Hollywood Hamilton back

Hollywood Hamilton is a truly gifted radio performer and deserves to be on in LA if he wants to. This year K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) hired the former CHR KIIS-FM and New York radio star to try and stir up things in the morning. Great as he is, his presence has only exacerbated the schizoid sound of the station: Half- ghost of Boss Radio KHJ and half-70s/80s FM CHR redux.

“Progressive” Talk?

I don’t get why Clear Channel markets its liberal talker KTLK-AM 1150 which debuted this year as “Progressive Talk.” It sounds like they are competing with woefully ignored Pacifica station KPFK-FM 90.7 and it fails to represent the fact that the people on the air are not progressive; they’re liberals, who sometimes sound just as mean-spirited and hateful as their right-wing opposites. Still, it’s fun to have Stephanie Miller as a morning show host.

End of news radio

Yes, I can’t resist this hyperbolic heading to describe the horror of watching Infinity Radio – now CBS Radio (I think) – slowly sink its two former West Coast flagship stations: KNX-AM 1070, once the pride of CBS, and KFWB-AM 980, one of the once-indomitable Westinghouse all-news giants. You can’t fault ex-KFI programming whiz David G. Hall for trying to think out of the box in the Age of the Internet, but throwing the (excellent) morning KNX traffic guy into afternoon drive without so much as a dress rehearsal was almost perverse. His co-host designate, the superb veteran reporter Gail Eichenthal, balked, then walked, rather than insult the memory of Murrow.

McDonnell Douglas show leaves KSPN

The McDonnell-Douglas Show on KSPN-AM 710 was a winner. It paired a great radio personality – Joe McDonnell - with a top of the line sports journalist – Doug Krikorian. Krikorian was let go in June. Later in the year, KSPN did not renew McDonnell’s contract. Since then, “The Big Nasty” has landed a general talk show on Clear Channel’s KTLK-AM 1150, Saturdays, 4 – 6 p.m. and has reported for some fill in assignments on “XTRA Sports” 570.

Fear from Katrina victims-to-be heard on Art bell

My last top radio story of 2005 is more personal. On the Sunday into Monday (Aug. 29) overnight, just as Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Coast to Coast host Art Bell was taking calls from frightened residents on his overnight show heard here on KFI-AM 640. The fear, even terror I heard in those voices as I listened to caller after caller talk about how they were trapped, unsure of where to go or what to do in the two to three hours that remained before the category 4 monster struck, was palpable. It was 3 in the morning. KFI, to its credit, dropped their re-feed of Bell’s show and went live with Wayne Resnick to cover the story.