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Airwaves: May 21, 2010

Tracking changes at The Wave


More changes at The Wave (KTWV, 94.7 FM) as afternoon jock and voice of the station Don Burns is told to hit the road.

Well, not exactly. Don’t fire up the computer is more like it. Not many people may have noticed, but Burns has not worked at The Wave in quite some time. Instead he has been voicetracking -- recording his DJ chatter and announcements and sending them to the station from his home in La Quinta -- for the last year or so.

And there’s the rub: new Wave programmer Jhani Kaye wants the station to be live and local as much as possible. Frankly this is a refreshing attitude, even if it does come at the expense of one of radio’s “smoothest” voices.

For far too long station managers took the easy and cheap way out by having personalities voicetrack their shows for one or more stations. Great for the bottom line, I suppose, but generally bad for radio. Major markets like Los Angeles and the Inland Empire deserve better, and being live and local is what makes radio stand apart and ahead of satellite radio, the internet, and iPods.

By now you’re probably wondering why Burns doesn’t just move back to Los Angeles and do his show from the Wave studios. According to Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com, Burns claims he is just not in a position to move back. More likely he just doesn’t want to. The fact that he could have done a live show from a home studio makes you wonder if the reality is that Kaye wants to make a change anyway ... and that the live/local line is a way of saving face.

Regardless, the move has already started a firestorm of sorts on internet message boards, similar to when Burns was let go from the same station seven years ago. Back then it took one year to get him back., This time, I’m not so sure. Obviously Kaye has a certain set of ideas for his station, the Wave has been considered vulnerable for quite some time, and while Burns was a great asset to The Wave since its inception in 1987, you cannot discount the fact that The Wave is still a background station. Or was. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.

Burns’ last day is May 28th; no replacement had been announced at press time.

Sound Workout

The place where I work out recently installed speakers in the weight room, over which they play The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM). And while it might seem strange to play relatively easy going music while lifting weights, for some weird reason it works. I stopped listening to my iPod and now just listen to The Sound when I am there.

HD Power

May 10th was the day the FCC finally allowed stations to increase the power of their FM HD signal. Former regulations allowed a mere 1/100 of a station’s analog power be used for HD, the digital signals decoded by special HD radios. This caused reception problems that are hoped solved by an increase to as much as 1/10 of the analog power, though most stations will more likely adopt a ratio of 1/25.

In other words a 5000 watt analog station that formerly was limited to 50 watts digitally can now broadcast 200 - 500 watts digitally ... supposedly bringing digital on par with analog.

Since no local station has informed me whether or not they have increased their digital power, if you happen to be one of the handful of HD radio owners, please let me know if you experience better digital reception of any station over the coming weeks.

And if you don’t own an HD radio, let me know if you notice any increase in interference on FM stations you like. The digital power increase has the potential to wreck havoc on analog listening, according to some observers.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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