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Radio AM to FM: November 7, 2003

KNX Blows One

I hadn't even had a chance to write about it, yet the angry and disappointed emails started coming in as soon as word spread throughout the radio community that KNX (1070 AM) was dropping the immensely popular Drama Hour from their schedule effective November 1st.

To say there was no warning is to put it lightly. Not only did the station wait until late Friday — the night of what turned out to be the final broadcast — to issue a press release, the November program guide, dated just October 23rd, features six pages of Drama Hour programming highlights ... out of six pages total for the guide.

Its a strange decision, to say the least. For the last 31 years, the Drama Hour and its predecessor, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, have consistently ranked as one of KNX's highest-rated hours. Not only that, it has consistently been the highest, or one of the highest rated programs in its time slot.

So why the change? Officially, KNX states that there is just too much of a demand for news 24 hours a day that there is no room in its schedule for programming such as the Drama Hour.

Sure. And I have a bridge to sell you in Manhattan. The fact is, news on KNX is so repetitive, it doesn't matter if you tune out for a few hours, when you tune back in they're still on the same stories ... or commercials, since the KNX program schedule is dominated by advertisements more than anything else.

No the most likely reason for the change has little to do with some made-up demand for 24-hour news, as if they couldn't preempt other programming for breaking news anyway. The real reason as near as I can tell is age discrimination: the audience for the Drama Hour is just "too old."

It appears that KNX hopes to make itself into the news source for 25-34 year olds. Forgetting for a moment the fact that the typical 25-34 year old doesn't listen to radio news -- and probably doesn't even know what that little "AM" switch on their radio does when they push it, you have to wonder: does station management really want to get rid of their current listener base?

Here are typical comments received by email since last Saturday:

"This is terrible news."

"Why do they have to strip the station of all personality?"

"What were they thinking? Get rid of anything that makes KNX better than KFWB?"

"They may have saved me money: I no longer need a radio."

"What else to skew it younger? Hip-hop news? A radio dating reality minute? Music beds on everything ...?"

"This move is an example of LESS public service."

In my 16 years of writing this column, I have never once received a letter complaining that KNX broke away from news for that one hour a night. On the contrary, I have consistently received letters from fans who love the show. This move on the part of station management will go down as one of the most moronic programming decisions ever made in Los Angeles radio.

And it is just such moves -- along with the dropping of their stereo feed and the addition of what is perhaps the most annoying hourly ID in the history of radio -- that place the future of KNX as a news station in serious jeopardy.

KNX/KFWB VP Pat Duffy should go back to what he did best: messing up sister station KRTH (101.1 FM). Or is that why he was moved here?


Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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