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Radio AM to FM: August 9, 2002

Lakers Legend Passes

Radio lost another great one last Monday night when legendary Lakers announcer Chick Hearn passed away. His death was the result of a fall he suffered in the back yard of his home, which led to a brain hemorrhage. He was 85.

Since his death, tributes and remembrances abound on radio, television and in newspapers. Perhaps one of the most touching came from KXTA (1150 AM), which replaced regular programming during much of Tuesday with a "Chick-A-Thon," an almost-all-day tribute with interviews and tributes from friends, players and fans, as well as highlights from his broadcasting career.

And what a career it was. Until he underwent open heart surgery in December, 2001, he called an unprecedented 3,338 straight games for the Los Angeles Lakers; Hearn was the only announcer the Lakers have had since they came to Los Angeles in 1960.

Prior to his 42 years with the Lakers, Hearn was the announcer for USC Trojan football. "Would you believe he was was an even better football announcer than basketball announcer," asked Ken Levine in a tribute on Don Barrett's "And who can forget 'Bowling for Dollars,'the local show that Chick hosted with such grace and sly humor that it became a local sensation? Talk about making something out of nothing."

Its the end of an era, and Hearn's death is a huge loss to Lakers fans as well as to the local radio and television scene.

What's Up with Digital AM

While nothing has officially been decided by the FCC, the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC) -- a group that evaluates and recommends radio broadcast standards -- is endorsing the use of digital "in band, on channel" AM broadcasting for daytime use only, due to concerns with interference during the evening and night hours when AM signals can travel thousands of miles.

Does this mean that digital AM is doomed? Not according to the company that designed the standard. Says Ibiquity VP of engineering Glynn Walden in an interview with industry newspaper Radio World: "IBOC will greatly improve an AM station's offering for both daytime and nighttime," adding that the NRSC report concluded only that additional information and testing would be needed before the system could be endorsed for nighttime use.

"Impressed with AM IBOC daytime performance, the NRSC encouraged the FCC to move forward with AM IBOC for daytime service, while nighttime tests are planned and conducted. The NRSC elected to bring the benefits of AM IBOC to listeners now, while further tests are completed," he said.

Elder Nation

KABC (790 AM) afternoon host Larry "The Sage from South Central" Elder is now national, available to all ABC Radio Network affiliates.

So far, his program is still the same, but I have my concerns. Few syndicated shows maintain their quality and ratings as compared with the former local show; what's good for Larry may be bad for KABC and Los Angeles.

Too early to tell for now, though. Elder is smart enough to make it work, as long as he doesn't limit his topics to those he thinks will appeal to everyone. You can't please everyone all the time, so its not worth trying. Do the best show and people will find you.


Copyright © 2002 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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