Radio AM to FM: March 17, 2000
The Boss is Back
Fans of legendary top-40 radio station KHJ were stunned when the news first started trickling out of the internet radio news and gossip sites: KHJ is returning to Los Angeles.
"How can that be?" they asked. The FCC hasn't issued three-letter calls in decades, and only allows them to be reissued to the original owner that let them go.
Well, call it a little South of the border influence. It seems that the call letters KKHJ, issued to KHJ's original 930 AM frequency that now plays Spanish ranchera music, form a bad word in Spanish (or English) slang when pronounced in Spanish.
"Caa-Caa" is the pronunciation of the K-K. Not a big obscenity, but big enough for some listeners and personalities to complain.
It began to get somewhat embarrassing, so KKHJ programmer Alfredo Rodriguez and Chief Engineer Jerry Levine approached the FCC with letters of support from listeners and an argument that the frequency deserves to reclaim the legendary calls it once held until former owner RKO let them go in 1986.
And ... it worked!
It's quite a coup for the station owners, who now have not only a successful AM Spanish music station, but a valuable call-letter combination. The calls alone are probably worth a small fortune if the Libermans ever decide to sell, and since they own the calls outright, they can "rent" them to anyone else who wishes to use the call letters on an FM or television station. The true irony is that Rodriguez, Levine and the Libermans care more about the calls than did RKO, which allowed them to be dropped. And they care, even though the format has nothing to do with the original station ... and most of the new station's listeners know nothing of the calls' history either.
Kindness, Happiness and Joy. What else would you want from a set of call letters?
Southern California will be saying goodbye to Channel 103.1 KACD/KBCD, 103.1 FM) in the near future, as Clear Channel dumps them in an attempt to win regulatory approval of its merger with AMFM, The station will be sold to Entravision, which plans to simulcast KSSE's (97.5 FM) Spanish rock hits format.
Also going will be KEZY (1190 AM), although no one will really notice, and KXMX (95.9 FM), which under the same fire sale will be sold to Salem Communications. There is s SLIGHT chance that KXMX's format will survive, which would be nice since it is Southern California's best "hot adult contemporary" station by far. Unfortunately, it will probably become a religious hits outlet.
KKBT, also being spun off in the same sale, has a rosier future: it is being bought by Radio One, which will keep the format essentially intact.
Saul Levine pulled another Saul Levine recently, dumping the popular Adult Standards format on KGIL (1260 AM) and KGXL (1650 AM) in favor of jazz. An interesting decision, considering how few jazz fans will actually tune into an AM signal for their music.
That leaves KLAC as the only station playing the Standards format in Los Angeles, and even it isn't expected to last long. Perhaps KGIL's change will make KLAC's owners think twice about taking KLAC to the no-ratings zone of all sports.
Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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