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Radio AM to FM: September 26, 2003

Up the Hall-Way

David G. Hall, the architect who transformed KFI (640 AM) from a poorly-programmed has-been music station into a talk radio powerhouse, is the new man in charge of programming at all-news stations KFWB (980 AM) and KNX (1070 AM). His official position is that of the newly-created Vice President of (Los Angeles) AM Programming for Infinity, the company that owns the two news stations.

Its a return to local programming for Hall, who left KFI for a position with Clear Channel's syndication division Premiere Networks in January 2002. Infinity/Los Angeles VP Pat Duffy told's Don Barrett that this is his most important hire since bringing the The Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan to KRTH a decade ago.

Don't expect a lot of changes right away. But changes will come. As Barrett said in his on line column of September 22, "David Hall didn't leave his executive position with Premiere Radio Network to oversee the status quo."

What kind of changes? Some observers look toward KGO in San Francisco for a model of how to remake at least one of the two news stations. KGO combines news coverage and talk programming to give it one of the highest ratings in that city.

Problem is, Hall would need to essentially program against himself. Under his direction, KFI became the most popular talk station in Southern California, and the shows he brought in, including Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlesenger, John and Ken and Bill Handel have made KFI within striking distance of becoming the number one station in town, period ... and would make KFI the first AM station to make that claim in about 20 years.

Whatever Hall decides to do, it is obvious that something needs to be done to assure the long-term survival of both KFWB and KNX. After staying in or near the top-10 of the Arbitron Ratings for years, both stations can now be found in the high 20s with combined ratings less than what each station used to earn individually.

Both stations have responded by adding ads in order to make up for declining revenue, which has only served to drive away even more listeners over to KFI, which not only has some of the most popular talk programming but one of the best news departments in Southern California.

In other words, it won't be an easy fix.

HD Radio Update

The engineers at WOR/New York, one of the first AM stations in the country to broadcast HD Radio, or digital in-band, on-channel audio, seem to be among the few supporters of the technology.

One engineer I spoke with said that while he doesn't like it, it will "probably come anyway, since so much money has been invested. Another said that his station won't switch over to the system "unless there is a demand for radio that sounds like shortwave under conditions of bad reception."

Similarly, feedback from listeners of available audio samples has so far been extremely underwhelming.

It seems this technology needs a little more development.


Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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