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Radio AM to FM: December 29, 2000

Top Stories of 2000

The year 2000 will not be known as a standout year in the history of radio. Consolidation in the industry has begun to take its toll, and the result has been a year in radio that, to be quite frank, has not been very newsworthy. There were a few standout events, however:

1. One of radio's real greats, not only as a personality but as a friend to almost everyone he met, passed away April 29th. His name was Mark Denis and he was the "image voice" of KFI and traffic reporter for KFI and sister station KOST.

Born in Glendale and raised in Compton, Denis' local resume included KFXM and KMEN in San Bernardino, KGB in San Diego, KEZY in Anaheim, and KHJ and KFI/KOST in Los Angeles. He was described by Los Angeles radio historian Don Barrett as "universally liked," and his death triggered an outpouring of tributes on Barrett's web site, Denis died at the far-too-young age of 59.

2. As in every one of the past few years, consolidation was a primary story of the year. This time it was the merger between AMFM and Clear Channel, which led to the destruction of two of the areas more innovative stations, KACD and KXMX, which had to be sold off due to ownership limitations.

That is somewhat of an irony, considering that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has lobbied hard to allow mergers and ownership limit changes using the argument that such consolidation actually leads to more diverse programming and better choices. In reality it has led to staff cuts and poor excuses for programming under the mantra of "we own everything anyway, so you have no choice but to listen to us."

3. Which leads right into the third big story of the year, Low Power FM. The Federal Communications Commission wants to allow community groups to have access to our own airwaves, now that they have allowed the Mega-Corps to gobble up the majors (did you know that Clear Channel alone now owns more than 1000 station in the US?). In fact the FCC has already started accepting applications for small station in the 10-1000 watt range.

Traditional broadcasters and the NAB don't like their power being usurped, however, so they have lobbied successfully in Congress to get legislation blocking most low power stations. The ultimate fate of LPFM is still in the air, but my personal feeling is that the NAB's opposition to LPFM should immediately lead to new regulations on the radio industry, including an immediate ownership limit of no more than two radio stations per market and an overall cap of 45. This would bring true variety back to radio.

4. Consolidation was even an issue in public radio as KPCC gave their license away to Minnesota Public Radio in early 2000, and purged their schedule of many popular and long running programs. No music is allowed on the new KPCC, so fans of such programs as Chuck Cecil's Swingin' Years have had to turn elsewhere.

5. You win some, you lose some: Usually the FCC only allows the re-issuance of a three-letter call-sign to the original owners of a station. In the case of KKHJ, they made an exception, and allowed Liberman Broadcasting to resurrect the name of one of Southern California's oldest stations, KHJ. On the opposite side of the spectrum, KRLA disappeared to make way for All Sports KSPN. Don't be surprised to see the KRLA calls turn up on another local station in early 2001, however. By next week perhaps.


Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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