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Radio AM to FM: May 19, 2000

Should KABC be saved?

As the program director turns ... Drew Hayes has been removed from the programmers position at KABC (790 AM) effective immediately. As of press time he wasn't actually fired, nor had he resigned, but the effect is the same: KABC is about to rearrange the proverbial deck chairs again. Soon.

This means that the rumor mill is working overtime regarding KABC and what it might become. Most stories focus on the morning team of John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, brought over from KFI (640 AM) last year. Apparently Hayes was the reason John and Ken were invited to cruise on the Titanic, err, KABC; with Hayes gone and John and Ken below the top-20 in the Arbitrons, many feel that the team's future is cloudy ... at least as a morning show.

Yet that misses the point. John and Ken aren't the problem. Nor are any of the other hosts, at least not individually. As I've mentioned previously, the problem lies much deeper, and in fact lies with the fact that KABC as a talk station has become irrelevant to most people in Southern California.

Yes, I know that KABC was the first talk station in Los Angeles. Yes I know that many people have fond memories of what KABC once was: an intelligent talk station with hosts that actually were intelligent. But that was a long time ago, before transistorized instant-on televisions, instant coffee, microwave ovens and instant hot water taps.

Radio listeners today tend to want the quick and dirty. And the quick and dirty can be found on KFI and KLSX (97.1 FM). If they still wanted intelligence, KRLA's (1110 AM) Michael Jackson would have listeners.

KABC has to admit the fact that it no longer can compete as a talk station. At least while Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura are on KFI. And being owned by Disney, a company that has never been able to run a station in any way except into the ground, doesn't help matters.

If I owned KABC, I'd give up talk. I'd hire someone like Chuck Southcott, programmer of KMPC (now KDIS, 710 AM) when it had listeners, to recreate KMPC: MOR music mixed with weekend (and some weeknight) sports such as Bruin football, Angels baseball, etc., to pay the real bills. Maybe to make things interesting, get a good late-night talk host ... but only if he or she is local and interesting.

I guarantee ratings higher than KABC has seen in years under that format. I also guarantee it won't happen. Expect KABC to rearrange the deck chairs again, and we'll all watch it continue to sink as another reincarnated talk station.

Going, going ...

The real bright spot in Southern California radio will be disappearing this Summer, apparently by July 1st. That's when religious broadcaster Salem Communications is expected to take control of KXMX (Mix 95.9 FM) and replace the current top-40 music mix with what is known in the land of no listeners as "religious programming."

The sale to Salem is part of the sell-off of stations required for the merger of AMFM and Clear Channel. Gotta love that deregulation. Thank you, FCC. I owe you one.

Who Wants to Be a $100 Millionaire?

CBS has apparently offered Howard Stern, heard locally on KLSX 3 am to 10 am, a five-year deal worth $100 million. Stern says that he still has not decided whether or not to take the deal and continue his popular syndicated show. "I have personal decisions to make," Stern told reporters last week.

I bet he'll take it. The current contract runs out in November.


Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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