Radio AM to FM: June 11, 2004
To borrow a line from an old Ford advertising campaign, if you haven't listened to KBIG lately, you haven't listened to KBIG.
After years of playing second fiddle to KOST both in programming and in the ratings, management seems to have finally woken up to the fact that L.A.'s most powerful FM signal is a chronic underperformer.
The first sign of life was the shifting of music away from the "we're slightly more upbeat than sappy sister-station KOST ... but only slightly" direction the station has tried for the past four years to a new "you might just be surprised what comes next" feel. Not perfect, mind you -- they still play David Bowie's Modern Love, for example -- but I have to admit I had to check the dial when I heard Outkast come through the speakers.
Next came the realization that morning man Charlie Tuna is a valuable resource, and allowed him to use his last name. Tuna is a Los Angeles institution, starting at KHJ in 1967 and working his way through numerous stations including Ten-Q, KHTZ, KRLA, and KLAC. His only bad on-air experience was when he was paired with Dean Goss on whatever KCBS-FM was calling itself at the time ... neither one knew when to stop talking. Other than that short stint, Tuna has always been a class act. Even after his long tenure, he is one of the area's more entertaining personalities.
This week the station went one step further and let Tuna's sidekick Leigh Ann Adams go. While the reasons are unclear, it definitely gives the morning show even more Tuna for breakfast.
Where KBIG falls is where most contemporary stations fall: production. Coming out of a commercial set, for example, I heard a recorded image stating, "Thanks for listening to LA's upbeat listen-at-work station, KBIG 104." Very cluttered and extremely unnecessary. If you really are something, you don't have to announce it. Instead, they should have run a clean simple shotgun jingle stating "K-BIG 104" and gotten right to the music. It would have made the station sound tight and upbeat ... exactly what it pretends to be. KFI circa 1984 would be a good place for management to compare.
Of course today's programmers are amazingly lame and don't understand or appreciate a good jingle package, so my guess is that KBIG will stick with clutter ... and continue to sound way too much like sister stations KOST, KYSR and KIIS-FM.
On the whole, though, the changes are positive. With some additional fine-tuning KBIG could become the modern version of KIIS-FM during their dominant era of the 1980s.
I'm not really sure how the station will broadcast audio versions of scantally-clad ladies, but Sirius has announced that Maxim Radio will debut on the satellite service this Fall. The station will purportedly air music, conversation and information in a style that matches that of the magazine. Should be interesting.
Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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