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

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.”