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

Monday, August 28, 2006

Radio Column August 25, 2006

Listening In

August 25, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Rick Dees on new ‘Movin’ 93.9 replaces country music

It was a radio “sneak attack” last Thursday when “America’s most listened country station” KZLA-FM 93.9 was “blown up” and replaced by a new rhythmic pop format called “Movin’ 93.9.”

Although morning host Peter Tilden had been off the air - ostensibly on vacation - and a slightly subdued overnight host Blair Garner was in his place with unusually tight-lipped co-host Ashley Paige, there had been no indication otherwise from anyone anywhere that Emmis Communications execs were ready to pull the plug on the music of Faith Hill, George Strait, Toby Kieth and Jo Dee Messina; or, for that matter, to be the ones to bring ex-KIIS-FM 102.7 Rick Dees’ legendary morning show back to the LA airwaves.

The ratings for Country KZLA weren’t stellar – they were tied for No. 20 with KLSX-FM 97.1 in the most recent ratings of listeners 12+ – but the station was still very profitable, according to general manager Val Maki, who also oversees Emmis’ hip hop Power 106 (KPWR-FM 105.9).

“Our research company – Coleman Research – researched the market place and saw there was a big opportunity for this type of music and for Rick Dees,” said Maki about the decision to go with Movin’ 93.9. “We’d had a lot of growth in revenue for six years, until the last year [with KZLA]. But that was a tough year everywhere.”

The new rhythmic pop contemporary blend promises to focus on the music of artists such as Beyonce', Gwen Stefani, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Gnarls Barkley. Described as “The Mix That Makes You Move,” Movin 93.9 is not unlike a rhythmic pop version of retro pop-rocker Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1).

“We're overjoyed that Rick Dees will be joining Emmis Communicationsand Movin 93.9,” said Jimmy Steal of the stealthy format flip. The Emmis Communications VP of Programming added, “Rick's passion for Los Angeles’ morning radio is legendary and his live and local show is a perfect fit for Movin 93.9. …. He’s the perfect complement to this exciting new format.”
Dees was continuing his impressive ratings track record at KIIS when he was dropped to make room for Ryan Seacrest in early 2004.

“Emmis is the perfect fit,” said superjock Dees of his new home on the air. “I've been presented with many opportunities, and the new Movin 93.9 gets me excited like I've never been before!”

Although Maki denies this is their goal, Dees and Movin’ 93.9 are certainly well positioned to pose a challenge to Clear Channel’s FM formidable pop music cluster: KIIS, KBIG-FM 104.3, KOST-FM 103.5, KHHT-FM 92.3 and KYSR-FM 98.7. By aiming for its top performer, Top 40/rhythmic KIIS, Movin’ 93.9 may cherry-pick listeners not only from the other Clear Channel “flanker” stations meant to attract the remaining mostly young females and soccer moms who don’t listen to KIIS, but from KIIS itself. Some listeners may decide that Movin’ 93.9 mix – reminiscent of KIIS in the 90s – ‘does it all’ for them.

As for the exit of the country format here, as with every contemporary music format, it lives and dies by the new music that’s available, and country music hasn’t been all that strong lately. In an ethnically diverse area such as Los Angeles, you need to appeal to a fairly wide audience, and without the Urban Cowboy phenomenon of the 80s, or a new Garth Brooks to draw folks in besides those weaned on country and who know and accept no other kind of music, there’s little that can be done.

The country music version of KZLA should be available to fans via Internet streaming as well as on Movin 93.9's HD Radio side channel. Go to for information.

Will another LA station take up the country music format? CBS Radio runs a popular country station in Chicago – and of course “K-FROG” (KFRG-FM 95.1) in the Inland Empire – but would they try it here with KLSX-FM 97.1 or KFWB-AM 980? Or will one of the three sports stations in town will give it a go: KLAC-AM 570 (it used to be country), KSPN-AM 710, or KMPC-AM 1540?

Power 106 looking for new afternoon superstars

“Power 106” has been advertising for a new superstar DJ team to fill the shoes of the once top-rated Goodfellas – Romeo and Dejai - who exited the station recently. Station General Manager Val Maki says they’ve been looking at people who don’t necessarily have radio experience – but are deeply immersed in the hip hop lifestyle. The station has been searching outside the radio community – even placing an ad in the actors’ magazine Backstage West. Maki says they’ll be announcing their selection soon.

New Star 98.7 lineup includes Richard Blade at night

Clear Channel’s decision to restore the post 10 a.m. DJ lineup to Hot AC Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM) couldn’t have come at a better time as it faces some competition from Emmis Communication’s new rhythmic pop hits Movin’ 93.9 (KZLA-FM 93.9).

“Lisa Foxx and Richard Blade have enormous equity in the Los Angeles market and Tom Mitchell is just ‘great radio’ said Star 98.7 Program Director Charese Fruge. “I’m thrilled to have talent of this caliber on my team. I’m confident that they will make the connection with the Star 98.7 audience.”

The new lineup after Jamie, Jack and Stench in the morning is; Lisa Foxx, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., newcomer Tom Mitchell, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Richard Blade from 7 p.m. until midnight.

Mitchell has worked at radio stations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Boston, and Las Vegas.

“I have always wanted to work in LA radio, and I can’t think of a better station than Star to do so,” said Mitchell.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Radio Column August 11, 2006

Listening In

August 11, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Study shows NPR listeners lean Democratic

People who listen to news/talk programs on public radio stations such as KPCC-FM 89.3 and KCRW-FM 89.9 are 18 percent more likely to lean Democratic or identify themselves as Democrats than the population at large, according to the new study “Public Radio Today 2006” released by Arbitron.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering that just about everyone I know who listens to non-commercial radio is a Democrat. But then again, this is Los Angeles County. Not exactly a Republican stronghold.

Nationally, public radio listeners who also listen to news/talk on AM stations are 44 percent Democratic versus 36 percent Republican. On the other hand, more than half of the people who tune in just to AM radio talk shows are Republican or lean to the right politically and only 30 percent are Democrats or lean Democratic.

The study shows that 26 million people across the country are tuning into public radio every week. Most are 35 or older and slightly more are male than female.

“Public radio is home to a unique mix of formats,” commented Mike Powderly, Senior Account Manager, National Radio Services, Arbitron Inc. “While news/talk is the leading format for public broadcasters as well as for commercial radio stations, public stations serve different audience segments for music than their commercial colleagues. Classical Music, jazz and album adult alternative are the leading music formats among public radio stations. This is in contrast to the leading music formats on commercial radio: adult contemporary, contemporary hit radio and urban.”

Last fall, Arbitron had reported NPR’s audience was stagnant or declining for the second year in a row, after years of strong growth. The news sent NPR execs into some serious soul searching.

However, last fall’s disappointing report was offset by a more recent survey by The Media Audit, which said that NPR was the fourth-most listened to format in the country, behind news/talk, country music and contemporary hit radio (CHR). Even more encouraging, the report also said that NPR was the most successful format of any in the top ten at converting listeners into “loyal” listeners. Nearly 60 percent of NPR listeners surveyed said that they listened to NPR “most often,” indicating the kind of loyalty sought after by radio executives.

Jack hires Freddy Snakeskin

Ex-KROQ DJ Freddy Snakeskin has joined the Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1) staff as a writer-producer for the retro-rocker. That has fueled speculation that Jack FM might be adding another voice to the on-air presentation. But no, says station spokesperson Chad Fitzsimmons. Snakeskin is just there to help write those witty liners voiced by Howard Cogan the voice of Jack and to run the controls. Jack is actually run as a live station with human beings pushing the buttons, something programmers feel gives the station a better sound than if a computer was simply firing off the songs and commercials. Still, all the music, commercials and announcements are stored in a computer hard drive as is standard for the industry now.

Ex-KROQ-FM Tami Heide is heard voicing station “Jack-tivities” about concerts and other stuff, but Jack remains the sole host. Cogan voices scores of fresh lines every week, all of them unique to the LA version of Jack and not shared by the other Jack stations around the country featuring his attitude-laden quips.

Sports reporter blues

There was apparent recent belt-tightening at news stations KFWB-AM 980 and KNX-AM 1070 with three ‘WB sports reporters getting pink slips; Joe Cala, Geoff Witcher and Bob Harvey. Almost immediately, Cala was rehired by sister station KNX (the stations are housed in the same building), according to Additionally, sports station KSPN-AM 710 local sports anchor Dave Stone was released from his gig reporting the sports headlines. While he had his job with the Disney-owned station, he was working for the same company that employs talk superstar Sean Hannity, carried locally by KSPN sister station KABC-AM 790. Hannity has mentioned Stone on the air as the guy who as program director for a talk station in Huntsville, Ala., gave him his first job in commercial radio. Aside from the sports changes, KNX also released news reporter and commentator Michael Ambrosini.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Radio Column July 28, 2006

Listening In

July 28, 2006

By Sandy Wells

King of ‘Old School’ Art Laboe moves to weeknights on Hot 92 Jamz

LA’s King of Old School, Art Laboe is now headlining the evening lineup on KHHT-FM 92.2 “Hot 92 Jamz.”

“Art is the quintessential personality for this station,” said Hot 92 Program Director Mike Marino about the new “Art Laboe Connection” airing weeknights from 7 p.m. to midnight. “He has a very rare connection with the audience, reaches across all demos and ethnicities and his wide appeal is documented in the ratings success he consistently achieves in the weekend show he’s had on Hot for the past five years.”

Laboe is also very popular among LA’s Latino community with a familial on-air style that makes him a hit with people of all ages. It is no accident that much of contemporary hip hop incorporates samples of classic R&B hits dating from the 70s and before. Laboe has been compiling and selling collections of “Oldies but Goodies” since he popularized the phrase on his radio show back in the late 1950s.

“This is the first daily radio show I’ve done in 19 years, so I am pretty excited about it,” said Laboe.

Sean Andre now moves into a split shift. His popular evening show “The Quiet Storm” is shifted to mid-night to 3 a.m. In addition, Andre’s “At Work Requests and Dedications” now airs weekdays from noon to 3 p.m.

“By moving Sean to the noon to 3 p.m. slot, we position ourselves for some tremendous growth in the daypart,” said Marino. “Until now we’ve kept the focus on Hot’s unique music mix in mid-days by running jockless.”

Interactive is the new buzzword in FM music programming as stations seek to create closer bonds with their listeners and develop more loyal, long term listeners. For KHHT as well as for the newly reformatted KKBT-FM 100.3 “The Beat,” the answer has been to place more personality presence between the songs with listener phone calls.

KFI is nation’s most listened to AM station

The Spring Arbitron ratings just out show that not only was talk station KFI-AM 640 tied for No. 1 in Los Angeles with Spanish Adult Contemporary KLVE-FM 107.5 “K-Love” – not just among news and talk stations – but among all stations. KFI also continues to be the most listened to AM station, talk or otherwise – in the nation, beating out New York’s WABC-AM for the honor.

It’s quite an achievement, especially considering the station has been operating below its authorized 50,000-watts of power since its tower was destroyed when an airplane crashed into 19 months ago. Plus, no AM station has reached the top in LA since talk station KABC-AM 790 dominated the market in the 1980s.

Elsewhere in the ratings of people 12+, top 40 hits KIIS-FM 102.7 tied with Mexican Regional KSCA-FM 101.9 for No. 3. Smooth jazz KTWV-FM 94.7 (“The Wave”) gained a full ratings point to move from No. 11 in the winter to No. 5. Alternative rocker KROQ-FM 106.7 edged up from No. 8 to No. 6, followed by soft rock KOST-FM 103.5 at No. 7, Mexican Regional KLAX-FM 97.9 at No. 8 and Spanish oldies (“Recuerdo”) KRCD-FM 103.9/KRCV-FM 98.3 at No. 9. No. 10 was split three-ways among hip hop KPWR-FM 105.9 (“Power 106”), 80s/90s rock KCBS-FM 93.1 (“Jack FM”) and Mexican Regional KBUE-FM 105.5/KBUA-FM 94.3 (“La Que Buena”).

KSCA-FM morning talent Píolin (below)

KSCA-FM’s Píolin por la Mañana dominated the morning drive again, followed by Bill Handel’s show on KFI.

In the “listen at work” mid-day period, The Wave jumped nearly two points to the No. 1 spot.

Afternoon drive was dominated by KFI talk show hosts John and Ken who bounded a point and a half from No. 9 to No. 1.

KIIS-FM owned the nights with a massive 6.2 share – down from 6.9 in the spring, but still way ahead of its nearest competitor, K-Love.

Paris says ‘Mais Oui!’ to American music radio

I spent my recent vacation in London and Paris with the family. Although I gave up driving and reading any email for ten days, I couldn’t help tuning around on a little radio I bought near London’s Piccadilly Square. Half-way around the globe, I heard some LA radio flavors on European airwaves.

In England, I caught KABC-AM 790 host Al Rantel’s voice on a Talk Sport promo for Mike Mendoza’s show. (Rantel and Mendoza keep up the U.S.-U.K “special relationship” with a cross-Atlantic (and continental) simulcast Friday evenings, sharing views and callers from the two nations “separated by a common language.”)

British talk host Mike Mendoza
KABC anglophile Al Rantel

The French may not think much of President George Bush, but they appear to have an enormous appetite for all things American when it comes to pop music radio.

In Paris, I heard AM radio DJ, Georges Lang, whose program “Beach Party” comes on station RTL every night at 11. He serves up American top 40 hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I heard him play an old KBIG-FM station ID: “It’s 12 o’clock in the west”! Lang reveres Southern California top 40 radio stations and DJ legends Rick Dees, The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and Mr. Rock and Roll.

American music – including lots of club music and hip hop – is everywhere up and down the Parisian radio dial. The pop music DJs almost all sound like Ryan Seacrest speaking French. Paris also boasts its own full-time Radio Latina at 99.0 FM!