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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Radio Column February 17, 2005

Listening In

February 17, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KOST’s Mark and Kim land spot on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Los Angeles radio’s longest-running morning show received their due with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this month. KOST-FM 103.5’s Mark and Kim were on hand for the unveiling of their names Feb 1st. Pop singing star Barry Manilow and noted TV, film and theatre producer Garry Marshall were among the celebs at the event near Disney’s El Capitan Theatre hosted by Hollywood’s Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant.

For Mark Wallengren and Kim Amidon, having Manilow at the ceremony was special since he was the first in-studio guest the duo had on their show.

According to Arbitron, KOST’s Mark and Kim Show has been a top five program among adult women listeners for 19 consecutive years. In the fall ratings, the team was No. 8 among listeners 12-plus and KOST was LA’s No. 1 station.

The pair has been nominated for numerous awards, and has won two Marconi’s, eight Billboard Awards, and four Gavin Awards. The Mark and Kim Show debuted on KOST in 1985.

New program head at KRLA-AM 870

Salem Communication’s flagship talker KRLA-AM 870 and the Inland Empire’s KTIE-AM 590 have ended its search for a new program director with the hiring of Craig Edwards. Edwards recently served as vice president, regional director of operations for Metro Networks/Westwood One and previously as director of operations, Los Angeles and as news bureau chief, Los Angeles. A veteran broadcaster, his experience includes positions at WTAM in Cleveland, as news director at WGR in Buffalo, and as traffic personality at KHOW in Denver.

New radio merger

Once again the radio landscape has been dramatically altered by a major merger. But it’s been a decade since the media world was shaken by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the subsequent “merger mania.” This latest merger is more like an aftershock. In this case, Disney Company, in a long anticipated move, has merged 22 ABC radio stations plus the ABC radio networks, except for ESPN and Radio Disney to Citadel Broadcasting Corp. for a cash and stock deal estimated at $2.7billion. The new company, Citadel Communications will be the nation’s third-largest radio company. Citadel CEO Farid Suleman, the former CEO of Infinity Broadcasting, will lead the new management team.

There is no telling right now what the ultimate impact on ABC stations will be. Here, it means that album rock KLOS-FM 95.5 and talk station KABC-AM 790 will now be part of Citadel. KSPN-AM 710 and KDIS-AM 1110 will remain within the Disney family of companies.

Among the major radio networks, ABC radio adapted best to the changing times of the 1960s creating specially targeted newscasts for different radio stations formats and a chain of highly successful top 40 rock stations that appealed to the younger audiences. It was the company that gave birth to the full time talk radio format right here in Los Angeles at KABC in the early 1960s.

More recently, ABC led the way in talk radio syndication developing stars such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Larry Elder. Paul Harvey News and Comment and the top of the hour news summaries have maintained their relevance and appeal despite the growth of less-formal, longer-form news and talk presentations.

Commercial radio in LA is still cash cow

Even with the competition from podcasting, iPods and satellite radio, commercial terrestrial radio remains a very healthy industry. The Southern California Broadcasters Association recently released their figures on ad revenues for 2005 and the 59 stations in LA and Orange Counties was $1.080 billion, a 3.4 percent gain over 2004. The Los Angeles Media Market, defined as the five county area including Los Angles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties took in $1.130 billion.

According to SCBA President Mary Beth Garber, Southern California is the world’s No. 1 radio revenue because of long commutes.

“Radio is growing because more advertisers understand how consumers use different media. Working people in Los Angles spend 3 ½ hours each workday with radio, just between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. … Because we’re not at home we look for companionship and connection. We don’t use radio just as a music delivery system (like an iPod, CD, Muzak or satellite radio). We look for emotional connection, for virtual neighborhoods.”

Radio certainly has proved remarkably resilient in the past. It could end up being like the cockroach of electronic media. Having survived onslaughts from TV, audio cassettes, CDs and cable radio, it seems likely to survive satellite radio and the Internet. Radio, thanks to its ubiquity and low-tech ease of use, will around long after many more exotic and more spectacular media delivery systems become extinct. Now if radio executives could just convince more people to buy the new HD radios ...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Radio Column February 3, 2006

Listening In

February 3, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Adam Carolla brings classic radio style back to morning radio

Morning shock jock radio has grown up. KLSX-FM 97.1 listeners have graduated from the savage high school antics of social outcast Howard Stern and have now been presented with the comic sophistry of The Adam Carolla Show.

The change reminds me of the intra-generational shift among the baby boomers back in the 60s, when teens graduated from high school rock and roll “rebels” such as Dion and Belmonts and became young adults, ready to appreciate the more socially-aware and sophisticated music of Crosby, Stills and Nash, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Blind Faith, etc. Carolla’s kind of like a shock jock for the college crowd.

The Adam Carolla Show launched Jan. 3 and is now carried on 10 stations. He sounds far less angst-ridden than Stern did. The former Kevin and Bean (KROQ-FM 106.7) bit player doesn’t need to rattle his cage to assert his identity, but instead manages to exude the aura of a guy who doesn’t need to have a big career in show biz in order to breathe. It also helps that he’s not engaged in a futile attempt to defy the FCC’s indecency restrictions.

What’s more, and what seems refreshing about this program, at least for an FM morning comedy talk show, is that it is so well crafted. Carolla conforms to what I’d consider the classic morning talk radio style and format. Segments appear to be well-planned out. Commercial breaks don’t go on forever. Stern, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to pause for commercials until he’d exhausted a comic vein or bit. Then he’d bury his listeners under a quarter-hour avalanche of commercials. With Carolla, points are made and then it’s time to move on. Carolla, a former carpenter and someone presumably comfortable with following a plan, sticks to the format. It may not be groundbreaking radio, but it is easier to listen to.

Carolla’s droll delivery also makes for good companionship and he sounds extremely comfortable filling the shows of one of radio’s most talked about personalities.

“I’m going to try to be funny, interesting and maybe a little thought provoking,” Carolla told NPR’s Renee Montagne on the eve of his new radio show’s launch. “I’m not taking over the Howard Stern show; I’m just doing morning radio. I mean Seinfeld was on NBC at 8 o’clock on Thursday nights. Eventually he went off the air and another sitcom came on. But they weren’t taking over for Seinfeld. They were just doing another sitcom.”

Carolla’s entourage – the svelte VH1 countdown queen Rachel Perry who reads news headlines, sports guy Dave Dameshek, executive producer Jimmy Brusca, et al. is growing apace. Although not yet as deep a team as Stern’s, it has promise. Because Carolla’s show is so well structured, I never feel imposed upon, wondering to myself, “Where is this bit going? Will it never end?” Stern could go into a comic aerial freefall and somehow pull up in time to save the segment from crashing and burning. Carolla, apparently not compelled to take such chances, concentrates on finishing one bit and moving on to the next.

Listening to Carolla, I’m reminded of hearing tapes of classic morning radio shows such as Bob Crane on KNX-AM from the 50s and early 60s, or more recently, KABC-AM’s Ken Minyard with Dan Avey. Carolla is squarely on the side of the listeners, never disappearing into inside humor or allowing the disorientation I sometimes felt listening to Jonathan Brandmeier on KLSX and Arrow 93.

The radio brain trust generally seems poised to concede music radio to satellite radio’s large channel selection and huge capacity to satisfy different niche audiences – not unlike the way AM stations surrendered music programming to FM in the early 80s – while concentrating on unique, spoken word content.

If that’s so, then The Adam Carolla Show might prove to be a model of how to do things right on terrestrial FM radio.