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Radio AM to FM: September 28, 2001

Don't Talk Back

After over 25 years at KIEV/KRLA (870 AM), George Putnam is hanging up his headphones and calling it quits. His last show is today from 3 - 5 pm.

Putnam arrived at KRLA (then KIEV) in 1975 after a successful run on local television, but his broadcast history actually dates back to 1934, when he landed a job at KDGY radio in Minneapolis. From there he moved on to bigger and better things, including NBC in New York, Mutual, the BBC, and the old Dumont Television Network.

I remember him primarily on KTLA Channel 5, but George Putnam and the News has been on every independent broadcast station in Los Angeles. A friend of mine once told me that when he first moved out to Los Angeles and saw Putnam's news, he thought it was a comedy, due to Putnam essentially telling his viewers that he will tell them what to think. Rumor has it that the Ted Baxter character on CBS televisions Mary Tyler Moore program of the 1970s was based partially on Putnam.

But it was that attitude that gave him his popularity and helped him prosper in talk radio; he is definitely not afraid to say what he thinks. The idea of callers being the primary focus of a program as they "Talk Back" to him and any guest newsmakers was refined -- if not originated -- by Putnam.

Replacing Putnam will be syndicated personality Hugh Hewett, who segues from the morning shift. Mornings will now be handled by another syndicated personality Mike Gallagher, meaning that KRLA now has no local personalities on the air.

What is not known at this time is whether the decision to leave KRLA was Putnam's or instead KRLA manager Dave Armstrong. While Putnam has spent over a quarter-century at the station, it is no secret that his audience skews older than many advertisers desire.

Attempts to reach Armstrong were unsuccessful by press time, but one hint came from, which printed that Hewett praised Armstrong "for the shakeup." That may not mean anything, but my guess is that the decision did not come from Putnam.

The List

Much has been stated about "the list" from Clear Channel of 150 songs that should not be played on their stations (see the excellent story in last week's Rave!) in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks.

From what I can tell, the list was devised by entering key words into a program (the infamous Prophet System, perhaps?). Words like "fire." And "jet." and "New York." How else does one explain how songs like Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water, John Lennon's Imagine, and James Taylor's Fire and Rain made it onto the banned list?

After much bad press, CC backpedaled and said that the list was only a "suggestion" for their stations, and that they would never outright ban songs. That may be true, but it and the list shows just how out of touch managers of Clear Channel Communications are with radio, their listeners and lyrics to songs.

What has not been stated, however, is that the list, however ignorant it may be, tends to include mostly songs that Clear Channel stations don't even play. Which then brings up the unanswered question: why then did they make it?


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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