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Radio AM to FM: December 27, 2002

The Year in Review

Change marked the Los Angeles radio scene in 2002, more than in any single year for quite some time. The year brought in a (posible) new system for broadcasting radio, a new CEO of the largest radio group in the universe, and a new lease on an important part of his life for one of the most popular talk hosts in America.

In no particular order, here are my picks for top radio stories of 2002:

IBOC: 2002 marked the year that temporary authorization was given for the broadcast of digital AM and FM signals using a system known as IBOC, or In-Band, On-Channel. Figuring that was too hard to remember or understand, developer Ibiquity Digital has been selling it as HD radio, invoking an image of high-definition audio.

Problem is, no current consumer radios can receive it, and some claim that the system causes interference to stations on regular analog radios. Regardless, the very fact that the traditional AM and FM could be replaced by a digital system launched just months ago makes this one of the top stories of the year.

CLEAR CHANNEL: The company that owns the world would naturally earn a place in a top-story recap. Various versions could be used: that Clear Channel dominates listening across the country, that the company dominates the radio advertising world, that they dominate the use of computer-based voice-tracking ... the list goes on and on.

My nod goes to their recognition that bad publicity was beginning to get in the way of the company's plan to dominate not only the world but also the universe, so they replaced flamboyant radio CEO Randy Michaels earlier this year with John Hogan. True or not, many associated Michaels with all the bad that Clear Channel has done to radio (forgetting for a second that other companies have done much the same thing, on a smaller scale), and he became a liability.

Michaels ended up heading another, less visible division of the company, and the press has pretty much left CCU alone since the change. Perhaps it worked, or perhaps Michaels really was evil ...

KRTH: First they hired Frazier Smith. Then they fired him. Then they moved "Shotgun" Tom Kelly out of afternoons, then back, then out again. And they fired Huggy Boy. For a station that made few changes to the airstaff throughout its entire history, that's a lot of movement.

INTERNET RADIO FEES: The Recording Industry Association of America doesn't like the fact that internet radio stations weren't paying fees that regular broadcast stations don't have to pay. So they endorsed a plan that was so costly, it would have put the vast majority of internet-based stations out of business. Congress got involved, and while the issue continues to be unresolved, stations CAN now negotiate what all involved parties feel is fair. 2002 could have been the year that internet radio disappeared, so while not perfect, the new fee plans are a start.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Last year, the popular talk host lost his hearing. After other means were tried and failed, he underwent cochlear implant surgery; in January, 2002, he announced a miracle: he could hear again ... much to the chagrin of competitors and liberals everywhere.

PASSINGS: Radio lost a lot of good people this year, including Irv Kaze, Al Lohman, Bruce Vidal, and legendary Lakers announcer, Chick Hearn. Their voices will be missed.


Copyright © 2002 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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