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Radio AM to FM: November 19, 1999

CBS may be forced to sell some stations in Viacom merger

When CBS/Westinghouse/Infinity announced that it would merge with Viacom earlier this year, many observers assumed that the combined company would not be required to sell any of its radio or television stations, since Viacom is not a direct owner of any stations in markets where CBS was at its legally-allowed ownership limit.

The general thinking was that the company may decide to sell a few stations to help the deal win regulatory approval, but would not be forced.

Well, it looks like the observers were wrong. CBS was already above the ownership limits in a few markets such as Los Angeles, due to previous mergers with Westinghouse and Infinity Broadcasting, and had obtained waivers to allow it to exceed those limits. Apparently, the merger with Viacom will cause the company to lose its "grandfathered" status and will thus be forced to sell as many as 10 stations nationwide -- including one in Los Angeles -- in order for the deal to go forward.

So: Which station will go?

KCBS-TV Channel 2? Yeah right.

KNX (1070 AM)? Doubtful. KNX has long been the crown jewel (and class act) of CBS's AM stations in spite of its declining ratings over the years. When big events occur, KNX is the place to turn for many people and its evening hour of old-time radio programs consistently ranks as one of the region's most popular programs.

KFWB (980 AM)? Perhaps, especially considering that it is generally below KNX in the ratings while running the same format. On the other hand, I can't see the company giving up a great signal when there are others in the chain that are floundering. Besides, I like KFWB. Kind of scrappy, like the old Herald-Examiner.

KCBS-FM (93.1)? No. The station has been with the company far too long and has too great of a signal.

KRTH (101.1 FM)? No. Makes too much money. Also has a powerful signal.

KROQ (106.7 FM)? Can't see this one going either. Sure, rumors abound that morning talents Kevin and Bean are on the way out, but KROQ listeners are rabid about their station. With single competitor Y-107 saying adios by early December, KROQ will have the weird-alternative audience exclusively.

KLSX (97.1 FM)? As much as I'd like to see this station go away, it probably won't. Not as long as advertisers don't mind the huge commercial load the station carries and the low number of listeners the station really has ... and continue to make it one of L.A.'s most lucrative for ad revenue.

KTWV (94.7 FM)? Nah. Like the lava-lamp format it runs, no one really pays attention to it. And it too makes big bucks.

KRLA (1110 AM)? As much as I'd hate to see it disappear completely as it might under a new owner (unless we can convince former programmer Mike Wagner to return from Paris to purchase it and put music back on the big 11-10), the fact remains that KRLA has the worst signal of all the CBS stations along with the lowest ratings. This would be my bet, assuming that CBS will indeed be forced to sell one of its local properties.


Copyright © 1999 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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