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Radio AM to FM: September 10, 1999


Every time I go on vacation, it seems that something major happens in radio. This year is no exception ... as soon as I got back from a short trip to Yosemite, stories were already out regarding AMFM Inc. taking ownership of KFI (640 AM) and KOST (103.5 FM) from Cox in exchange for Cox getting control of 14 -- count 'em, 14! -- soon-to-be-former AMFM stations located primarily in Florida and New England.

Financial terms were not released, but it has been estimated that the cash flow for KFI and KOST is roughly the same as for the 14 stations to be traded, giving an idea of just how lucrative KFI and KOST have been to the Cox family. AMFM is expected to take control of the Los Angeles properties as soon as October under what is known as an LMA, or Local Marketing Agreement.

Interestingly and expectedly, Cox retains control of the KACE/KRTO simulcast (98.3 and 103.9 FM) since including them in the deal would put AMFM over the new (higher) station ownership limit recently approved by the Federal Communications Commission. After the acquisition, AMFM will own the maximum of seven Los Angeles radio stations -- five FM and two AM; including KACE/KRTO would force AMFM to divest of two stations anyway, and those two would most likely be KACE and KRTO.

While KACE/KRTO has been successful, the simulcast has lower signal strength and earns less in advertising revenue than either KFI, KOST or AMFM's other Los Angeles properties: KBIG (104.3 FM), KCMG (100.3 FM) KKBT (92.3 FM), KLAC (570 AM), and KYSR (98.7 FM).

The current thinking is that Cox will divest of KACE/KRTO in the near future, however, so the format future of Los Angeles' only real "soul oldies" format is up in the air. Hopefully it will stick around.

What does this mean for KFI and KOST? Probably nothing. Both are successful, and while Manager Howard Neal has already left the building, both stations are solid performers and not expected to change. Minor adjustments, perhaps, including a rumored move of former Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce to KFI's afternoon slot. Bonaduce is under contract with AMFM while living in Los Angeles without a station, and Karel and Andrew are KFI's lowest-rated daily show.

What might change is KBIG. In spite of a far superior music mix, KBIG has played second fiddle to KOST since each dropped Beautiful Music in favor of "Adult Contemporary" music years ago. Now under one roof, will AMFM keep both essentially similar formats going? Probably not.

Tilden Returns's Tomm Looney has reported that former KABC (790 AM) personality Peter Tilden is finally hitting the L.A. airwaves again, this time via KRLA (1110 AM) from 7-10 pm. Tilden replaces G. Gordon Liddy effective immediately.


I tried so hard to get this right, and I still blew it. Last week's quote about KKBT from Ronnie Brown should have talked about rap music being the living canvas of "African-American and Afro-Latino youth."


Copyright © 1999 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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