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 Radio AM to FM: December 24, 1999

Shearer salutes Shepherd

Today from 12 noon to 2 pm and again at 6 pm on KCRW (89.9 FM), Harry Shearer pays tribute to radio storyteller Jean Shepherd, known by some as "the first radio novelist."

Shepherd is probably best known as author and narrator of "A Christmas Story," although he also wrote articles for a variety of magazines such as MAD, Playboy, Car and Driver and Field and Stream.

Yet he actually began his career and established his reputation on radio, first in the early 1950s in Cincinnati, later moving on to Philadelphia and finally New York. He spent more than two decades on WOR, a 50,000 watt clear channel station in New York; with clear channel status, WOR had no other stations on its frequency, so the late night Shepherd broadcasts could be heard across about half of the United States (similar to the reach of KFI here in Los Angeles). It was with this power that Shepherd created an "I, libertine" book hoax, in which he and his listeners created a national furor over a nonexistent book ... the nonexistent status not being enough to keep the book from being banned in Boston.

Shearer will present vintage excerpts from Shepherd's broadcasts, his own interview of Shepherd and reminiscences from people who knew him before he died on October 16th of this year.

Here's a strange one ...

The general policy at Jacor/Chancellor/AMFM/Clear Channel (and whatever they merged with this week) is to sell and stations they choose to sell (or those that MUST be sold to win approval of the merger du jour) to a company that will not compete with any of their remaining stations. That means many of their sold stations will go to religious groups or foreign-language programmers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to KKBT (92.3 FM) bliss. Rumor has it that Power 106 owner Emmis made an offer that was just too good to pass up, so it looked like the only direct Power competitor would soon be a sister station.

But then Jacor/Chancellor/AMFM/Clear Channel management had a problem: how could they sell to a company that won't take their station out of the competitor's loop? So they decided to tell Emmis that they could have the Beat format, but only if they put it on the Mega 100 (100.3 FM) frequency and allow J/C/A-F/CC to keep the superior 92.3 signal.

"No problem" said Emmis according to the rumors. At last count, according to rumor, J/C/A-F/CC management was still trying to weasel out of the deal or figure out a way to make Emmis beg.

Insert Foot

I think someone else was sitting at my Mac keyboard last week.'s Tomm Looney claims he was not thinking of me when he mentioned in his December 19th web post that some radio writers were insensitive regarding the format change at Y-107. Words like "yet another Spanish station" were used by some newspaper writers.

Well those were the words I used, and while I stand behind them somewhat (hey, I had to cheat to get a "C" in high school Spanish so Spanish stations don't tend to be very appealing to me). It's the next line from my column of last week that shocked me. I wrote that the change of Y-107 to Spanish from alternative rock made for "one less reason to listen to the radio."

That's not true. There are many people who like listening to Spanish radio broadcasts, and some of the programming gives english-language station programmers a run for the money. What I meant to say is that the change creates one less reason for me to listen to the radio.

I apologize if anyone was offended by my remark or thought of it as anything more than someone giving a very opinionated look at Los Angeles radio. I still believe that "Feliz Navidad" is a very annoying song, though.


Copyright © 1999 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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