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Radio AM to FM: July 10, 1998

New York, New York

I just flew in from New York, and boy are my arms tired!

OK, it's a bad joke but it does act as a great lead-in to my first topic: New York radio.

After spending eight days in the Big Apple and more than a few minutes sampling the local radio stations there, I have come to a few conclusions: 1) You can't sample all New-York stations and still do all the other vacation-like things you want to do; 2) Even though New York has about 4 million more Arbitron-aged listeners than does Los Angeles, radio seems to have a lower level of importance in New York -- due mainly to the subways and trains taking away most of the in-car listening that is so important to radio stations out here; and 3) New York radio seems to be better.

It's hard to explain #3, although I must point out that given more time I may have gotten as bored with New York radio as I have with most stations in Los Angeles. But I found it interesting that, even though New York has far fewer signals in which to tune, I found more than a handful of stations that I liked.

Stations that, while not as good as those of L.A.'s past, were quite impressive. Top-40 stations that actually played the top-40, rather than playing just one type of music. Jocks that were allowed to do more (though not much more) than read liners. Personalities that realize they aren't in Denver any more.

I heard old friends and familiar voices, like Scott Shannon (former Pirate Radio programmer) on WPLJ; Sean "Hollywood" Hamilton (KIIS-FM, KGGI) doing mornings on WKTU; and of course Howard Stern, who broadcasts his national show from the studios of WXRK. It was interesting hearing Hamilton in particular, as he once wanted to take Rick Dees' place on KIIS. Though he couldn't break into Los Angeles morning drive, he is now succeeding in a market that is the largest radio market in the United States (Los Angeles is number two).

Interestingly, Jacor -- owner of KIIS-FM and KXTA -- is not among the names of station owners in New York. Perhaps that alone explains why New York radio seems so much better ...

You Ask, We Answer

Q: I listen to AM News/Talk stations only, not FM stations. I would like to know for the many people who have to work in office buildings why the reception is so clear for FM stations, but unclear for AM stations? Can't this be cleared up in some way? -- Irene Caligiuri, Los Angeles

A: The reason has to do with the characteristics of AM and FM broadcasting. Basically, AM waves have trouble getting into office buildings, as the building design often acts as an AM filter. In addition, once the signal gets inside, interference becomes a problem from such things as fluorescent lights, computers, monitors, and many other electrical devices.

The best way to handle the problem is to find a good AM radio that will allow the connection of an external AM antenna. That way you can either place an antenna outside the building (as many people do with FM radios) or you can construct a good internal Am antenna that will amplify the signals and cancel some of the interference (for a good design, visit my web page at Otherwise, just placing the radio near a window may be all that is needed.

Q: Why are FM stations always on odd frequencies -- 102.7, instead of 102.6, for example? -- Kimba, Redondo Beach

A: That has to do with channel spacing -- leaving room between stations so as to minimize interference. FM stations are sandwiched between television channels 6 and 7. 88.1 MHz was chosen as the beginning point of the FM band in order to not interfere with Channel 6, and the spacing was set at 0.2 MHz between available station channels (0.4 in a local area). It could have just as easily began at 88.0, I suppose, but it didn't. The rest, as they say, is history.

Have a question? Send it to me in care of The Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503. Or send e-mail to


Copyright 1998 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press