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Radio AM to FM: August 20, 2004

Changes at 1260 ... Again

It figured to happen, considering that Saul Levine changes formats on his AM properties more often than some people change their underwear: KSUR (1260 AM) has dropped standards for the pre-Beatles pop simulcast of XSURF (540 AM).

I cannot even remember all the formats that have made cameo appearances on 1260: all Beatles, show tunes, standards, standards again, jazz ... the latest incarnation of standards was actually one of the longer-running formats, having made its debut in March, 2002.

This move actually makes some sense, as the buzz around 540 has been tremendous considering that it hasn't even shown in the ratings yet. With two signals, the format can reach most of the metro-Los Angeles area and related to that the most important part: Levine has the format to himself rather than playing second fiddle to the much higher-powered KLAC (570 AM), now has the standards format exclusively, at least locally.

Commercial Clutter

The company that spent most of its history trying to cram more and more commercials into each broadcast hour is finally listening to me: Clear Channel has announced a campaign to lower the number of commercials per hour on their stations, and will limit the number of commercials per stop-set.

I've been writing about this since 1987. Huge commercial loads are driving away listeners, and breaks that feature more than a handful of commercials are instant tune-outs, lowering the value of the ad to the advertiser. I have long held that a station that runs fewer commercials per break can charge a premium for each spot, since their ad will actually be heard.

The goal for my own radio station would be no more than two commercials (or two minutes) per break, as I figure that once people figure out how short the break will be few will tune into my competitor. Alas, the Clear Channel goal is not so lofty, but it is a start: no more than four minutes of commercials per break, with three to four breaks per hour.

The only problem I see with Clear Channel's plan is a goal to encourage the use of 30-second commercials. In a listener's mind, it doesn't matter if it's 30 or 60 seconds, it's still an ad. So four 30 second commercials still sounds the same, whether it takes two minutes or four. That mindset may change, however, as more 30-second commercials are produced.


KFI (640 AM) has been running quick promotional announcements hyping their excellent news department. One features Phil Hendrie, and it is perhaps the most annoying thing on radio today, instant tune-out. I change the station even though I know it's only abut 20 seconds long.


I hate talk radio.

Well, perhaps hate is the wrong word. But certainly talk is not my first choice of formats. So why do I like KFI so much? I think I've figured it out.

KFI is talk with a sixties and seventies-era top-40 attitude. They cross promote their hosts, they have a news department and newscasts that are second to none, and they are very tight formatically with excellent production values. Most of the hosts would probably feel right at home on a good top-40 station, if one existed today.

Now if they could just get rid of that Phil Hendrie news promo ...


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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