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.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Radio Column March 9, 2007

Listening In

March 9, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Marc "Mr. K" Germain on K-Talk

KABC’s former late evening host has landed in a new time slot this week hosting afternoon drive with rival talk station KTLK-AM 1150 “K-Talk.”

The ex-night time talk radio czar is adjusting to the new hours, by dropping the “no guests, no topics, no screeners” approach of his previous show.

“It is event-driven radio with more focus on interviews and news-oriented talk,” said Marc Germain, the real name behind his previous two aliases, Mr. KFI and Mr. KABC. “I have a producer and call screener, Lisa Goitch, who will also come on the air with me.”

Germain said he was approached by several stations after he left KABC. KTLK, which had just lost Al Franken to a run for a senate seat, was in the midst of revamping its lineup of shows.

“We have been looking for the right opportunity that would allow us to go live and local in afternoon drive for some time now,” said KTLK Station General Manager John Quinlan. “When Marc became available, we knew right away our search was over. Marc brings years of talk radio credibility and a passion for the format. We know those are the two keys to being highly successful.”

Germain, who is retaining his nickname ‘Mr. K,’ becomes the centerpiece of that revised lineup along with morning drive host Stephanie Miller. The already tape-delayed Ed Schultz is moved to 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.

He says he is not joining the Bush-bashing that is sometimes associated with K-Talk.

“Fire-brand, Bush-bashing – that’s not the show. The idea is to broaden the appeal of the station,” he said, adding he will maintain his independent take on politics and culture. “No one has ever told me what I can and cannot say.”

Phones ring off the hook at new “Go Country” 105.1 FM

It’s been a thrill ride since classical KMZT-FM 105.1 became KKGO-FM the new “Go Country,” with the switch of the country music format from AM 1260 and 540. (“K-Mozart” has moved to AM 1260, where it might well be renamed “K-Salieri”).

“It’s the best case scenario for me,” said morning DJ Sean Parr. “It’s like a dream come true. Clay Walker does a song called ‘Dreamin’ with My Eyes Wide Open’ - if I could have wished for a perfect scenario, I could hone my skills and get chance to practice for a month on the AM side and then bring it over to the FM side ready to roll and that’s exactly the way it happened.”

Parr says diehard country fans emailed constantly saying we’re listening on the AM (1260 and 540) even with all the static. Since the switch to the 18,000-watt FM signal, Parr says the phones haven’t stopped ringing with calls from grateful country music fans.

“A lot of people felt like they had lost a piece of their family and are so glad to have a familiar voice come back in the morning. People are crying to us on the phone. You could not believe the reaction. The passion - I’ve never seen it – in twenty years of radio. The phones just never stop. Every call is the same. ‘Thank you! Thank you!’ ”

And the country mix is a lot broader than it was on KZLA-FM 93.9 (now rhythmic adult contemprary hits KMVN-FM ‘Movin’ 93.9 with Rick Dees.)

“KZLA was pretty corporate run and the music was pretty tightly run I played what I was told to play” explained Parr. “We were playing around five hundred songs. This is the first time I’ve ever worked for a station where I was asked what I thought about the music. They've allowed me to bring in music from my library of hits from the past 25 years in Southern California. (Go Country Program Director) Mike Johnson is fantastic. We just see eye to eye. We both are about the same age and his philosophy is ‘just play the hits.”

Parr says one reason Mt Wilson FM Broadcasting President Saul Levine was able to re-launch the country music format in L.A. before the big corporations did was because he wasn’t asking for the moon and the stars. He says the giant broadcasting corporations typically demand concessions such as free stations concerts by the big Nashville stars in exchange for on air exposure.

Parr added that Levine is very positive about the potential of country music here. At KZLA, management didn’t believe the format had much appeal in ethnically diverse Los Angeles.

“My boss used to say to me KZLA is a 'two-share' radio station. I disagree with that. We sell more concert seats than anyone. If you do it right you can be much bigger. I really think that we got a great mix we’re doing it right and we really have an opportunity to make this happen.”

Star 98.7 adds New York DJ to lineup

Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM 98.7) has hired New York DJ Yvonne Velazquez to take over the weekday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. “All Request Workday” slot vacated when Lisa Foxx joined the morning show as co-host with Sean Valentine.

Most recently, Velazquez was the night DJ on WNEW in New York. Before that she was the voice of MTV Satellite Radio.

“Joining STAR 98.7 is an unbelievable opportunity for me to reunite with my former morning show partner and mentor (Star 98.7 Program Director) Charese Fruge and to work for a station where I am truly passionate about the music. I am forever thankful to (KYSR General Manager) Craig Rossi, Charese and everyone at Star for saying – ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ – I’m going to enjoy every minute.”

KFWB’s Andy Ludlum named program director

KFWB-AM 980 News Director Andy Ludlam has been named program director, taking over from David G. Hall who will now focus exclusively on programming sister station, news/talk KNX-AM 1070.

“We have a great team of anchors, reporters, writers, editors and producers, totally dedicated to providing the best news product and services in Los Angeles,” Ludlum said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to show off what this radio station does on a daily basis.”

KFWB Assistant News Director Paul Gomez replaces Ludlam as news director for the (almost) all-news outlet. KFWB broadcasts Monday Night Football and Dodgers baseball.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Radio Column February 24, 2007

Listening In

February 23, 2007

Marc Germain a.k.a. Mr. KABC will join KTLK-AM 1150

By Sandy Wells

Mr. KABC winds up 10 years of your questions, his answers

I recently asked Mr. KABC for an interview about completing ten years at KABC-AM 790. No mean achievement in this competitive market. I wanted to ask him how he felt about being on for a decade, about changes in how he approached the show and the callers, plus any general observations about changes and trends in talk radio. He said he’d get back to me.

A week later he told me he had decided to end his career at KABC.

“KABC’s decision based on network pressure to carry the second hour of Mark Levin would have pushed my show an hour later,” he wrote. “Since I didn’t think that was good for my family, advertisers or listeners, I made the decision to leave the station.”

It was odd that the station appeared ready to move the Ask Mr. KABC Show when things were going so well.
”With the ratings and revenue success, in the fall ’06 Arbitron, my show was No. 1 midnight to 1 a.m. and No. 2 10 p.m. to midnight, I plan to find another good home for the show quickly and listeners will be informed if they leave their email addresses for me at I had ten great years at KABC because of my loyal listeners.”

He went through a similar situation ten years ago when KFI-AM 640 announced it was going to make room for the Phil Hendrie Show by moving Ask Mr. KFI (his former name) from his 9 a.m. to midnight position to midnight to 3 a.m. Mr. K walked rather than take the overnight shift.

On the conservative-leaning KABC, the liberal host went through ups and downs. He was placed in the morning show and paired with voice artist Brian Whitman (now on talk station KLSX-FM 97.1 weeknights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with Tim Conway, Jr) and later endured the absurd “Concentrated Mr. KABC” where he was reduced to an hour sandwiched between the Stephanie Miller Show and Art Bell.

For now, Mr. K appears to remain, as always, “better than most, not as good as some.”

Al Franken runs for Senate

Another liberal talk show host has taken leave from the ionosphere, as it were. Air America star host and Saturday Night Live alum Al Franken exited the recently sold left-leaning talk radio network to make a run for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Heard on KTLK-AM 1150, where the comic icon has publicly butted heads with Fox News Channel and Westwood One syndicated host Bill O’Reilly (heard locally on KABC-AM 790), Franken often strained to translate his hilarious onstage persona to radio.

KTLK in the mean time is making an impact with veteran radio hosts Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Franken’s replacement, Thom Hartmann, who now is heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

KTLK's Thom Hartmann

XM to wed Sirius?

When the two giant satellite radio companies XM and Sirius were formed, the FCC stipulated that the two were not to merge. That would be anti-competitive. Well after years of bleeding red ink - more than a combined billion and a half dollars, according to industry publication Inside Radio - the two appear ready to come together in a $13 billion merger deal. They are asking the FCC to change its stance and allow the union, hoping that the pro-business Bush administration will be lenient. Terrestrial broadcasters are furious.

“Given the government’s history of opposing monopolies in all forms, NAB would be shocked if federal regulators permitted a merger of XM and Sirius. It bears mentioning that regulators summarily rejected a similar monopoly merger of the nation’s only two satellite television companies - DirecTV and DISH Network - just a few years back,” fumed National Association of Broadcasters’ Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. “When the FCC authorized satellite radio, it specifically found that the public would be served best by two competitive nationwide systems. Now, with their stock prices at rock bottom and their business model in disarray because of profligate spending practices, they seek a government bail-out to avoid competing in the marketplace. In coming weeks, policymakers will have to weigh whether an industry that makes Howard Stern its poster child should be rewarded with a monopoly platform for offensive programming. We’re hopeful that this anti-consumer proposal will be rejected.”

Satellite radio execs argue that iPods, Internet radio and other increasingly available audio content sources will insure plenty of options for consumers.

Ex Arrow Program Director rebounds in Chicago

The architect of the “Arrow 93” format on KCBS-FM 93.1 (now “Jack FM”) has rebounded with a dream announcing gig in his home town. Tommy Edwards was named the PA Address Announcer for the Chicago Bulls for the 2006-2007season, a job he held for 14 years in before coming to LA. He credited with being the first sports PA Announcer to use the recording of “Rock ’n’ Roll Pt. 2” by Gary Glitter to rally the fans.

Edwards was the creative force behind the “All Rock ‘n Roll Oldies” format that enjoyed great success for more than a decade here in Southern California.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Radio Column Feruary 9, 2007

Listening In

February 9, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Delilah arrives at KBIG-FM

Syndicated host Delilah is returning to KBIG-FM 104.3. The Seattle-based DJ will launch in Los Angeles Monday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. with a weeknight program that combines music, dedications, and relationship information and advice.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Delilah on 104.3 KBIG,” says KBIG Program Director David “Chachi” Denes. “We are confident that her broadcast experience, knowledge of our audience, and her personality is a perfect fit with our station. And, of course, her continued popularity and unique style can only be a great addition to our line-up.”

Delilah Rene-Ortega (born Delilah Rene Luke) is actually making her second round on the adult contemporary hits station. In 1998, back when it was calling itself “K-Big” her program was carried from 7 p.m. to midnight. She is currently heard on 250 stations around the country including New York’s WLTW-FM.

“KBIG is a part of the L.A. radio landscape, one that I have had my heart set on for many years,” says Delilah. “And for those many years, I have asked Chachi for this chance. At last, I get to talk to my friends in L.A. every night and I’m so excited about that.”

A single mother of seven – including four adopted children – Delilah combines story-telling with “sympathetic listening and encouragement.” She is popular with adult contemporary soft rock audiences, especially among young adult women. She describes her show as a “safety zone where listeners take off their armor, slip into a ‘Mr. Rogers’ cardigan, sit around the electronic hearth and share their secrets.”

The addition of Delilah puts her in partial competition with KOST-FM 103.5’s long-running, “Love Songs with Karen Sharp” which airs from 7 p.m. to midnight. Both KOST and KBIG are owned by Clear Channel Communications.

KFI lets go of Orange County reporter

Is KFI-AM 640 trimming its news staff? The award-winning news/talk leader raised a few eyebrows recently when Orange County reporter Jay Lawrence was let go and when overnight news anchor Michael Crozier was shifted to weekends and replaced by news editor Donald Morrison.

Not to worry said KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci, the station remains fully committed to providing aggressive, live and local news 24/7 and is not about to undergo a round of cost-cutting.

“We have the number one (radio) news in LA County and we’re not going to mess it up,” she said. She explained that the KFI news payroll has grown 50 percent over the last five years and it was time to make some minor budgetary adjustments and reallocate some resources. Bertolucci said KFI is currently seeking to fill the position vacated by Lawrence.

Limbaugh nominated by KABC host for Nobel Peace Prize

Two KFI-AM 640 syndicated hosts have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Rush Limbaugh received his from the Landmark Legal Foundation, whose president, Mark Levin, is also a radio talk show host heard locally on KABC-AM 790.
Levin nominated Limbaugh for his “nearly two decades of tireless efforts to promote liberty, equality and opportunity for all humankind, regardless of race, creed, economic stratum or national origin. These are the only real cornerstones of just and lasting peace throughout the world,” explained Levin. “Rush Limbaugh is the foremost advocate for freedom and democracy in the world today.”

Despite the fact that they are on competing talk stations in LA, both Limbaugh and Levin claim New York’s WABC-AM as their flagship station.

Responding to the fact that California death row inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, KFI morning host Bill Handel had himself nominated for the prize by a congressman (who asked to remain anonymous, according to a KFI spokesperson). Williams, a convicted murderer, was executed in December, 2005.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Radio Column January 26, 2007

Listening In

January 26, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Talk radio, oldies and soft rock rebound in latest ratings

The redesigned oldies legend “K-Earth 101” (KRTH-FM 101.1) made impressive gains in the fall ratings period, going from a tie at No. 15 to a tie for No. 10 in the latest Arbitron survey of listeners 12 and up. It is vindication for new Program Director Jhani Kaye and indicates there are plenty of listeners ready for a more 70s-based mix of oldies. Kaye’s previous station, adult contemporary KOST-FM 103.5 which is now programmed by Stella Schwartz, also had a great book, jumping from 11th place to a tie for 4th.

The congressional elections were a boon for talk stations. Clear Channel’s conservative/populist KFI-AM 640 went from a tie at No. 8 to a tie a No. 4 and ABC Disney’s mostly conservative KABC-AM 790 moved up from No. 17 to 15. Liberal KTLK-AM 1150 (also owned by Clear Channel) inched up a tenth to No. 31, tied with Salem ’s very conservative KRLA-AM 870.

Country music fans found a new home across county lines. The Inland Empire ’s “K-Frog” (KFRG-FM 95.1) jumped from No. 40 in the LA Metro survey to No. 28, thanks to the “flip” of KZLA-FM 93.9 from country to rhythmic adult contemporary “Movin’ 93.9” (KMVN-FM) last August. We’ll have to wait for the next ratings results to find out how well newcomer Country AM 540 and 1260 succeeds in attracting the disenfranchised country music fans of LA and Orange Counties .

K-Earth 101 Morning Man Gary Bryan

The top rated stations overall were Spanish contemporary “K-Love” KLVE-FM 107.5, then Regional Mexican KSCA-FM 101.9 which tied at No. 2 with Clear Channel’s top 40 KIIS-FM 102.7. The No. 4 spot was shared by two other Clear Channel stations: KFI-AM and KOST-FM. Regional Mexican KLAX-FM 97.9 scored at No. 6, followed by CHR Rhythmic “Power 106” (KPWR-FM 105.9) at No. 7, alternative rock KROQ-FM 106.7 at No. 8 and smooth jazz “The Wave” (KTWV-FM 94.7) at No. 9. “K-Earth 101” and Regional Mexican KBUE-FM 105.5 tied at No. 10.

K-Earth 101's midday guy Jim Carson

Climbing back into the morning drive top ten were Mark and Kim on KOST-FM up from No. 12 in the summer to No. 8 and “K-Earth 101”’s Gary Brian, who shot up from No. 16 to tie at No. 9 with the adult hits format of “Jack FM” (KCBS-FM 93.1).

KSCA-FM’s “Piolín por la Mañana” held on to No. 1 in morning drive. English-speaking radio’s top performer was KFI’s Bill Handel at No. 2 overall, then at No. 3 KLAX-FM’s Renan Almendarez Coello, “American Idol” star Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM at No. 4, Omar and Algeria on KLVE-FM at No. 6, Kevin and Bean on KROQ-FM at No. 7 and Power 106’s big-voiced Big Boy at No. 8. In talk radio, KABC-AM’s Doug McIntyre, KRLA-AM’s Laura Ingraham and KTLK-AM’s Stephanie Miller all gained audience share. Notwithstanding LA’s need for straight forward news reporting and frequent traffic updates, news stations KNX-AM 1070 and KFWB-AM 980 lost audience share in the morning, down two tenths and one tenth respectively.

In the 7 p.m. to midnight period, Art Laboe, whose request and dedications show on “Hot 92 Jamz” (KHHT-FM 92.3) dominates the city with the No. 1 show on Sunday nights, did not improve the ratings picture for the urban AC station with his new weeknight show. KHHT-FM was down from No. 4 to No. 7. If listeners are missing the soft R&B of “The Quiet Storm” (now starts at midnight), the ratings suggest they weren’t going to “The Wave” which dropped down from No. 7 to No. 12 nor to “The Beat” KKBT-FM 100.3 - now KRVB-FM “V-100” – which dipped from No. 14 to 21. Night owls may be tuning to the 70s flavored hits on “K-Earth 101” (up from No. 19 to 15). In talk radio, KABC-AM gained 1.6 points, raising Al Rantel, Mark Levin and “Ask Mr. KABC” from No. 16 to No. 10. KFI-AM’s John Ziegler and George Noory also improved, growing nine tenths of a point from No, 10 to a tie at No. 5 with KOST-FM.

Ask Mr. KABC showed big gains in the evening ratings for KABC-AM 790

NPR news aims for younger audience

National Public Radio is getting set to launch a new news show for younger audiences patterned after “Morning Edition,” which has grown to be a daily habit for 13 million listeners since its inception in 1970. However, the young, college educated FM listeners of that time are now pushing 60. Even at the ultra politically correct NPR, the people in charge know they’ve got to cultivate the young to stay relevant in radio.

“Morning Edition is a tremendous success and a daily priority for millions of Americans, but one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to news and information,” said NPR Chief Executive Officer Ken Stern. “The 25-to-44 age group is underserved by the media and seeking smart, thoughtful content relevant to their lives. With more than seven million of them already embracing public radio and the public service it offers, this is a logical opportunity for NPR.”

A two-hour morning drive time radio show is planned for September through NPR radio stations, their digital HD radio multicast channels, the Internet and on satellite radio. No word yet on whether KPCC-FM 89.3 or KCRW-FM 89.9 will participate.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Radio Column January 12, 2007

Listening In

January 12, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Star 98.7 pairs KIIS-FM’s Valentine with Foxx in new morning show

Lisa Foxx moves into new time slot on Star 98.7

Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7 repeated history last week when it removed the morning show starring “Jamie, Jack and Stench,” (Jamie White, Jack Heine and Mike Roberts). The trio exited the Hot Adult Contemporary station billing itself as “today’s music alternative” last April so management could make room for more music-focused programming. However, a big email response caused the management to pull a Donald Trump-like move, giving them a “second chance.” Now that’s over with for good. Or bad, depending on how much you liked or disliked White’s brand of goofball humor.

Sean Valentine moves from KIIS-FM to Star 98.7

Starting next Tuesday, KIIS-FM 102.7’s lightening-witted Sean Valentine joins midday host Star 98.7 DJ Lisa Foxx for the new 5:30 am - 10 am morning show. Valentine spent the last ten years spinning top 40 pop hits for Star 98.7’s sister station, including the last eight as host of the afternoon drive shift. He’s also a regular at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, and has entertained the U.S. armed forces stationed overseas for the USO.

Foxx has been a mainstay on Star 98.7 for nearly ten years, hosting virtually every timeslot. Lately she has been heard hosting the “All Request Workday” weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm. A California native, Lisa honed her on-air skills with gigs in San Jose and San Francisco before coming to Los Angeles.

Both hosts are adept at managing fast-paced shows where music is the focus. Star 98.7 General Manager Craig Rossi says he expects there will be a pretty even blend of music and chatter.

Sean Parr headlines as DJ on country AM 1260 and 540

Sean Parr does mornings now on AM 540 and 1260

On his first day back on the air this week at AM 1260 and 540, prompted by traffic reporter/sidekick Robin Banks – who also worked with him on KZLA-FM 93.9, country music DJ Sean Parr retold the story of the last minutes of the FM country station.

“The boss came in to the studio,” Parr recalled. “He never did that. He never came into the studio. He asked how I was. I knew something was wrong. I asked is everything okay? He told me that in five minutes this station as you know it will be no more.”

Parr, at the mike, with his daughter visiting in the studio, was stunned, but not speechless. He said he asked the boss if he could say goodbye to the listeners, say something to explain what was happening. His boss told him to be a “radio professional” and play one more song without comment, for that would be his last. Shaken, with emotions welling up as the reality began to sink in, Parr picked Keith Urban’s, “Tonight I Wanna Cry” which he played at 10:18 a.m. He was then called into a staff meeting where the grim details were spelled out.

Later, he says he did get the opportunity to say goodbye to some of his listeners. But it wasn’t on KZLA. Morning DJ’s Scott and Tommy on the Inland Empire country station, “K-Frog” (KFRG-FM 95.1) which reaches parts of LA and Orange Counties, invited him to come in and talk about the demise of LA’s only country station on the morning of August 17th.

Parr’s presence in the morning gives the AM station a local show to anchor a broadcast schedule that features other country radio talents such as Whitney Allen, Brian Douglas, Paul Freeman and Tonya Campos, all former KZLA DJs.

Mt. Wilson Broadcasting President Saul Levine says he plans to add more local shows to the lineup of AM 1260 and 540.

Bonaduce joins Carola on KLSX-FM

Danny Bonaduce hooked up with morning man Adam Carolla and Teresa Strasser last week on KLSX-FM 971. The “Free FM” talker has struggled to recapture anything close to the ratings dominance it enjoyed in the morning with Howard Stern at the helm. Nevertheless, Carolla has survived, unlike his hapless East Coast counterpart, David Lee Roth, who was removed last year after less than five months on the job. Bonaduce, who also lost a morning radio job last year, as co-host with Jamie White on Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7, is back in the saddle after a year starring on his own MTV reality TV show “Breaking Bonaduce.”

“If you asked me why I wanted to join Adam’s show, my first reaction would be to say poverty, followed quickly by the fact that I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for his work,” said Bonaduce in a statement. “There’s nothing quite like doing live radio especially with a veteran like Adam. Having done his show in the past I know that there is something unique about what we bring to the table.”

‘La Raza’ morning man arrested after domestic quarrel

Spanish language radio superstar “El Cucuy” Renan Almendarez Coello had a run-in with the law over the holidays. Police say the “La Raza” KLAX-FM 97.9 morning man turned himself into to police last week on suspicion of making criminal threats over the phone to his wife and later to police on New Year’s Day as officers were investigating reports of a family fight at his home. Police say there were traces of blood at the scene Monday and that they took a knife as evidence. His wife was not injured. After being booked Wednesday, Almendarez posted $50,000 bail and left the police station with his lawyer.

The Honduran native has enjoyed a huge following among Spanish-speaking listeners in LA since his days on KKHJ-AM 930 (now KHJ). His popularity soared when he moved to mornings on KSCA-FM 101.9. Last spring, he played a key role in publicizing the massive rally in downtown Los Angeles to protest a House bill that would have criminalized illegal immigrants.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Radio Column December 29, 2006

Listening In

December 29, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Top radio stories of 2006

KZLA vanishes; Rick Dees returns on new KMVN

It was a strange day in August when the country music format vanished at KZLA-FM 93.9. The new “Movin’ 93.9” was born by stealth, with not a hint of things to come offered by Emmis Comunications, the corporation that owned LA’s only country outlet. Many country music lovers felt outrage, once they got over the shock of hearing Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas instead of Toby Keith and Sara Evans, not to mention the loss of morning DJ Peter Tilden. The silver lining in the cloud was the announcement that former KIIS-FM morning man Rick Dees was coming back to wake up Los Angeles.

Huggy Boy dies

Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg died this year following a period of failing health. The 78-year-old pioneer DJ who began spinning R&B hits in the 1950s from Dolphin’s record store in South LA evolved, in his later career on KRLA-AM 1110, into a radio institution among LA’s Latino communities. The Ohio native’s unpretentious presentation of “low rider” oldies with its emphasis on soul and R&B classics plus requests and dedications connected with people of all ages.

Comedy and sports don’t mix well

Can comedy and sports work as a talk format? KLAC-AM 570, made a half-hearted go of it with two comedy acts that ended up going nowhere, or in the case of Phil Hendrie, into TV sitcoms. Chicago’s mighty Mancow was heralded as a kind of new and improved Howard Stern. However, Mancow’s high-energy clowning cacophony sounded like it needed to be on FM as he is heard on his home base station in Chicago where higher fidelity and stereo help sort out the voices amid a pounding heavy metal soundtrack. But I give him credit for packing more entertainment bits into a show than any other radio morning man I’ve ever heard. And they were often very funny. Hendrie, moved from a high-profile evening slot on KFI-AM 640, was often preempted by sports on KLAC’s evening slot. He is now developing his comedy for TV. And KLAC is now programming sports shows with Joe McDonnell in the evenings and “Roggin and Simers Squared” with KNBC-TV’s Fred Roggin and sports writer T.J. Simers with his daughter, Tracy.

Country music on AM

Independent broadcaster Saul Levine came to the rescue of country music fans after KZLA changed to Movin’ 93.9. He “flipped” the format of his AM stations first XESUR-AM 540 and later, KKGO-AM 1260, trading Ferrante and Teicher for Brooks and Dunn.

Jhani Kaye programs K-Earth 101

I had to scratch my head over this one. K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) hired one of radio’s pre-eminent adult contemporary “soft rock” programmers with KOST-FM 103.5 and KBIG-FM 104.3 to reinvent the legendary oldies station. Jhani Kaye started in January. Like a glacial ice flow moving south, the music has changed to the point where except for the old jingles and a smattering of 60s classics the oldies sound has almost melted away. Kaye inserted ex-KBIG personality Joshua Escandon into early afternoons, giving the station a decidedly AC flavor during a key “listen at work” daypart. He also put Gary Bryan back in mornings. Hollywood Hamilton went back to New York radio after a year of waking up Angelenos with the Four Tops and Righteous Brothers.

Tough act to follow on KLSX-FM

KLSX-FM 97.1 Program Director Jack Silver has had his work cut out for this year. Programming a station with top-rated Howard Stern as the morning guy was like owning an Arabian oil field. With Stern gone to Sirius, Adam Carola has faced the daunting challenge of trying to keep as many Stern fans tuned in while developing his own following.

Behind the scenes drama at Star 98.7

Hot Adult Contemporary Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7 has endured some tabloid-style sturm and drang this year, beginning with the firing of practically the whole air staff in order to put the focus back on the music. That move led to thousands of emails reportedly demanding that Jamie, Jack and Stench be given back their morning show. Management put the trio back on and also hired DJs Lisa Foxx, Tom Mitchell and Richard Blade to put some more personality between the records. The year came to a calamitous end when KFI’s Bill Handel, another morning host from the local Clear Channel cluster based in Burbank, burst into the Star 98.7 studio while the on-air lamp was lit, and loudly and profanely went off on Jamie for yelling at his kids, who had strayed down the hall while visiting their Dad’s show. There were a lot of “beeped out” words during that incident.

Revolving doors on urban radio

More evidence that personality is makes for compelling music radio surfaced as Urban AC “Hot 92” KHHT-FM 92.3 put weekend syndicated Art Laboe on a weeknight schedule with his signature requests and dedications. Laboe, a LA veteran broadcaster, helped Huggy Boy get started in the business in the 1950s. Comedian Steve Harvey, who was a huge hit on KKBT-FM 100.3, “The Beat” reemerged on old school hip hop KDAY-FM 93.5. KDAY also added Tha’ Goodfellas following their successful run of afternoons spinning hip hop hits on Power 106 KPWR-FM 105.9. Earlier this year, “The Beat” replaced morning man John Salley with Tom Joyner as it transformed from a hip hop and R&B to Urban Adult Contemporary sound. Joyner exited this month as the Beat’s new program director Kevin Fleming replaced him with KJLH-FM 102.3’s Cliff Winston.

Radio Column December 15, 2006

Listening In

December 15, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KKBT ‘The Beat’ drops Tom Joyner show

Urban contemporary station KKBT-FM 100.3 “The Beat” is returning to local programming in the morning as it disconnects from the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show after today.

KKBT Program Director Kevin Fleming was on the verge of making it official with an announcement this week that afternoon drive talent Cliff Winston would be named as the next personality to step into the high-profile position.

Before he was picked up by “The Beat,” Winston had developed a solid local following hosting the morning show at the Inglewood station owned by pop/R&B icon Stevie Wonder, KJLH-FM 102.3. His move to 100.3 earlier this year immediately fueled rumors that he was in line to replace Joyner’s program, which was not moving the ratings in the right direction.

“It was difficult for him to find an audience,” said Fleming of Joyner, who programmed the now defunct oldies R&B outlet KACE when that station carried the syndicated show. “That was five or six years ago. There wasn’t satellite radio or iPods then.”

Fleming is convinced that he must focus on developing local personalities to compete for LA’s fickle listeners and feels that Winston is the man to do it.

“He’s an entity in this marketplace and that’s a positive” said Fleming reflecting on the changes he hopes will stem the audience erosion the station has suffered this year. “The bleeding has stopped, we’re making changes; we have to inform the marketplace of who we are.”

Fleming edited the radio industry music tip sheet “Urban Buzz” between radio gigs. He feels the appeal of the urban adult contemporary sound of KKBT will continue to grow, displacing what he sees as hip hop’s fading popularity.

“You can only eat fast food for so long,” says Fleming, explaining the new focus on local personalities and music aimed to satisfy the musical tastes of Southern Californians. “People need to have a meal. You can have a home cooked meal here. That’s what we’re all about now.”

Fleming says KKBT’s music mix will be more ‘mass appeal’ than the similarly-formatted KJLH.

“The Beat” will soon add Shirley Hayes from Chicago’s WNUA-FM to fill the 9 a.m. to noon slot soon.

New female morning host captains the KJLH-FM “Home Team”

As former KJLH-FM 102.3 morning man Cliff Winston gets set to move into morning drive on KKBT-FM 100.3 ‘The Beat,’ one of his former “Home Team” players has moved up to take his place.

Adai Lamar is now counted alongside former “Beat” personality Diana Steele on KHHT-FM 92.3 as one of two female music DJs hosting the key morning drive time period. She is also the only African-American woman currently at the helm of a morning radio show in the market.

Lamar aims to “Entertain, Inform and Enlighten” on her daily 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. program. In keeping with the station’s objective to be “the community station,” drawing her listeners from LA’s vast melting pot, Adai and the Home Team broadcast community affairs, local job announcements and listener calls.

KJLH-FM's Adai Lamar

The Texas native graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in broadcast journalism. After starting her radio career at a station in Oklahoma City she moved to Hollywood where she worked for music star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds before returning to the airwaves at KJLH.

Lamar is being promoted as someone who delivers “the viewpoints and experience of an attractive, young, single, professional African-American woman, something you won’t hear elsewhere headlining any other morning music show in L.A. radio.”

Adai hopes to move into some TV work in addition to radio. She is currently developing a segment for her show called “Adai in LA: The diary of a single black female living in the City.”