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Radio AM to FM: December 31, 1999

The Year in Review: Top Stories of 1999

1. Low-power FM broadcasts

2. John and Ken move to KABC

3. Jhani Kaye leaves KOST

4. Cox leaves Los Angeles

5. Consolidation continues unabated

6. More personalities go national

7. Mutual signs off for good

8. Schlessinger sues for slander

9. Mark and Brian in hot water

10. Sebastian is born

Wow ... another year has already passed us by. It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the top stories of 1998; now with only hours remaining before the arguments resume regarding when the millennium really begins (January 1, 2000 or January 1, 2001), its time for another look back at the fun-filled year of radio.

Perhaps the biggest story of 1999 really wasn't a story at all, considering that nothing has come of it yet. But for the first time since 1980, the FCC is considering licensing low power FM stations to educational and community groups. Of course the corporate-driven commercial broadcasters (and corporate-driven public stations) are against the idea, stating erroneously that the ten to 1000-watt stations would cause interference with established broadcast stations.

The hypocrisy among the public stations taking this position astounds me, since they were often originally low-power stations and it was their own power increases that caused interference to remaining grandfathered low power stations already in operation. In reality, the reason established broadcasters are against low-power stations is that they don't want competition, even if it is from a high school. No, they want our airwaves all to themselves.

The big story locally was the disappearance of John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou from KFI's afternoon slot, only to reemerge in the morning slot on KABC. So far the jury is out on the acceptance of John and Ken by the KABC audience, but the duo's replacements on KFI, Charles Karel Bouley and Andrew Howard -- Karel and Andrew -- have begun to grow an audience of their own.

Cox left Los Angeles broadcasting for good, first by selling KFI and KOST to AMFM, then selling KACE and KRTO to Hispanic Broadcasting. This marks the first time in recent history that Cox has not owned a station in Los Angeles.

KOST lost the only programmer they ever had under their contemporary music format as Jhani Kaye left the programming post in June to take a corporate position within parent owner Cox. Just months later he resurfaced as programmer/advisor of former KOST competitor KBIG due to a tangled web of consolidation moves.

Consolidation ... that's it. CBS merged with Viacom, Jacor merged with AMFM only later to be swallowed by Clear Channel. The moves have not done much yet, but they are sure to lead to station sales and format changes early in 2000 as group owners scramble to dump stations in order to win merger approvals.

More local personalities went national in 1999, including KABC's Dennis Prager and KFI's Phil Hendrie. Unfortunately, the national shows not only lose their local bite, they often lose fidelity as well, with any program distributed by Premiere (Hendrie, Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger all hampered by a low-frequency hum that permeates their broadcasts.

After 65 years of operation, the Mutual Radio Network was shut down by owner Westwood One in 1999, the last broadcast being a newscast on April 16th. Mutual existed in name only after being bought and systematically disassembled by Westwood One, but it left a void in the hearts of many who remember Mutual as the scrappy network that beat the "majors" (CBS and NBC) to the air by six minutes when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger made her own news this year by filing a lawsuit against the owner of a surf shop in Costa Mesa. Schlessinger did a tirade on her show regarding the carrying of Big Brother Skateboarder magazine by Beach Access Surf Shop, stating among other things that the magazine contained pornography. Shop owner Thomas Moore said she was wrong; Schlessinger sued for slander. The suit was later thrown out.

KLOS's Mark and Brian made history this year by becoming the target of boycotts and protests over a contest where the duo gave away plastic gardening tools called "Black Hoes." I'll just leave it at that.

The top story in my life, however, is the birth of my son Sebastian on December 18th. How does this fit in with radio? Well, for one, he'll most certainly listen to the radio in years to come. And if the Breeze doesn't get overly tired of this amazingly opinionated column, perhaps he can take over the writing of it sometime in the future. By the way, Sebastian is really cute. And I'm not biased in that opinion ...


Copyright © 1999 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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