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Radio AM to FM: January 2, 2004

Radio Independence

The new Indy 103.1, "your independent radio," launched with little fanfare this week. In fact, there was no fanfare ... just a format change.

The station is currently running jockless with no commercials, playing a mix of songs ranging from the Talking Heads to things I've never heard before, sounding very much like KBZT/San Diego (94.9 FM), which also bills itself as "independent radio." KBZT and 103.1 are not owned by the same company.

103.1 was formerly known as KDL, playing a mix of club dance songs. That format lasted less than a year. Calls to owner Entravision were not returned as of press time, but I hope to have full details of this new station within the next two weeks.

All News, All ... Oops!

KNX (1070 AM), which dropped the Drama Hour under the pretense that news was just too important to ever break away, will begin airing Computer News with Jeff Levy and Food News with Melinda Lee, starting tomorrow. Both shows will air Saturdays and Sundays; Food News at 8:00 AM and Computer News at Noon.

Don't let the titles fool you: these are the same shows that formerly aired on KFI (640 AM), and as good as they are (or aren't, depending on your perspective), they still add 14 hours of non-news programming to KNX. Kind of blows a hole in the "can't break away" line, don't you think?

It's quite a coup for programming VP David Hall, who apparently plans to duplicate his past success as programmer of KFI by duplicating KFI itself. Both shows have quite a following, and should help boost KNX's weekend ratings.

Lee's show is quite interesting even for moderately good cooks, while Levy's is interesting if for no other reason than to hear him cut to a commercial when a really tough question comes up, or for Mac users to hear about all the troubles they don't have to worry about ...

Carrying the Torch

Stereo on AM may be relatively unheard of these days, in spite of a push a few years ago by the National Association of Broadcasters who ran a series of ads touting radios meeting the AMax reception standards.

Even so, there are thousands of AM stereo radios in the hands of consumers, many of which are factory-installed car stereos. And a handful of Los Angeles-area AM stations still broadcast in stereo: KBRT (740), KABC (790), KRLA (870), KNX (at least until they launch "HD Radio"), KDIS (1110) and KFOX (1650).

You may notice that only one of those listed is music: KDIS. And you may wonder why a talk station would bother. Well, talk stations do indeed sound better in stereo when you listen on a good AM stereo receiver. And unlike FM stereo, stereo on AM does not negatively affect coverage area.

So the big question is: why isn't KLAC (570) or K-SURF (540 and 1260) in stereo? Both run formats that would benefit from stereo. In KLAC's case, they have the engineering expertise to run fabulous AM stereo, due to their connection with KFI. For some reason, owner Clear Channel seems to have a no-stereo-on-AM policy. Too bad; KFI used to sound wonderful in stereo ... as did KLAC before Clear Channel turned the stereo off. As to K-SURF, I have no clue: 1260 was in stereo at one time.

There are many, including me, who believe that analog AM stereo, when done right, sounds better than digital, which in current form sounds harsh and causes interference to neighboring stations. Maybe digital will get better, but most engineers I talk with don't believe so. If only the FCC mandated minimum receiver standards ...


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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