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Radio AM to FM: May 7, 2004

On the Money

KNX (1070 AM) has added another new program to its lineup: "Money 101" hosted by Bob McCormick.

The program focuses on timely news for consumers and small business owners; topics include finding the lowest gas prices, cheap travel deals (needed to buy gas at those low prices), tax saving tips, college financing, real estate and real estate loans, and financial planning.

The program airs every weekday from 2 to 3 PM.

Short Takes

Just when you thought it was safe to get near a radio, a group called "Conservative Communications" hopes to launch some new talk programs aimed at younger listeners. No details were provided other than home base being Manhattan.

I'll give you a hint: young people, even young conservatives, don't listen to talk radio ... unless it's sex talk such as found on KLSX ...

AllAccess.Com reports that KWPT/Fortuna, CA changed formats from urban top-40 to classic hits ... but stunted for a week playing nothing but Elton John. Talk about cruel and unusual ...

Chrysler is expanding their offerings of Sirius Satellite Radio. For the 2005 model year, Sirius will be available in the 300 series as well as in Dodge Magnums. Not really news until you hear that the $195 option includes a 1-year subscription. I'd expect more of these deals in the coming months as competition heats up.

Sirius, by the way, added 32,000 new subscribers in March, a 38 percent increase from February, according to industry reports. Which leads us to ...


Q: What's better, Sirius or XM? -- R. S., San Pedro

A: That's an easy one. I don't know.

At one time, Sirius had a distinct advantage in some people's minds with no-commercials on their own music stations, That advantage disappeared once XM announced that they, too would have no commercials on their own original music stations.

So now it comes down to preference. Some fans tell me that Sirius has better personalities (disc jockeys) than XM, but I have also heard great things about XM's original programming as well. Both companies feature formats that commercial radio abandoned in many areas long ago, except for Beautiful Music. I couldn't find that on either of the companies' web sites.

There are also differences in sound between the two companies. Both use compressed audio similar to what is done with internet streams and MP3s. but the way they do it is different, and those with good ears tell me there is a difference.

Obviously cost is a consideration, as XM costs $9.99 per month and Sirius costs $12.99.

The chilling thought for commercial broadcast stations: I have yet to hear of anyone who doesn't like XM or Sirius.

Q: I'm showing my age, but I remember when KFI used to be the NBC affiliate and was known as a "clear channel" station long before the name became synonymous with blah radio. The station used to get calls from Canada when it was not on the network. How could one station get that far, and what did "clear channel" mean? Also, what happened to Dick Sinclair of the Saturday night Polka Parade? -- Robert Billingsley, via the internet.

A: I'll take the last question first: Sinclair is the program director of KRLA (870 AM). I cannot confirm it, but supposedly he still does the Polka Parade on the CRNI, the Cable Radio Network.

Your other questions are interrelated. A "clear channel" station is one in which there are no other stations on that same frequency. The idea was from the early days of radio that small towns wouldn't be able to support their own stations, so the FCC authorized a few clear channel stations to reach into those areas, at least at night. The clear channel stations were eventually authorized to broadcast with a non-directional 50,000 watts, allowing KFI to easily reach into Canada along with the Western half of the United States.

At one time, other stations could reach quite far as well, due to relatively few stations being on the air. On AM, the more stations you have, and the more stations authorized to broadcast on the same frequency, the more interference you will receive. Add to that other modern sources of interference such as computers, televisions, and even some of those new LED traffic lights, and you find that long distance AM reception isn't what it used to be. Still fun, but not what it once was.


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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