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Airwaves: October 27, 2006

Mancow Out to Pasture

Sports radio has never worked in Los Angeles. No one really knows why -- I have my theories, of course -- but with various attempts over the years, from the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) to XTRA (690 AM) to KSPN, the audience just isn't there.

In Spring of 2005, Clear Channel thought they had the answer. The reason sports radio never worked in LA, they felt, was because no one ever really copied the nationwide leader, WFAN/New York. For WFAN wasn't really all sports, they had a general interest show in the morning (Don Imus, a holdover from when the station was WNBC), and sports the rest of the day.

Their solution? Mancow.

Brought in to do wakeup duties beginning May 23, 2005, the idea was that Mancow, aka Erich Muller, would bring a new audience to the station including, perhaps, a few of Howard Stern's listeners once Stern left broadcast radio for satellite radio at the beginning of 2006. Billboards hyping "the king of free media" were all over town, obviously a takeoff of Stern's "king of all media" slogan from years back.

He did well in Chicago, which means he'll do well here, right? Just ask Jonathan Brandmeier. With a strong morning show, KLAC would finally break out of the ratings cellar it and all other Los Angeles sports radio stations have been stuck in.

Alas, it didn't work. In spite of heavy promotion, he just never managed to gain a foothold in Los Angeles, and this morning was his last program on KLAC. His show in Chicago, as well as his syndication deal which takes him across the country, will continue.

Beginning next week, a new local show will take Mancow's place. No official word yet on who it will be, though reports that a local television sportscaster and a sports columnist/weekend radio host may be the replacement team.

Don't be too surprised if Mancow winds up on a local FM station.

Checking Sources

I was in a meeting with my principal last week when the calls started coming in. First from parents, then from my wife, asking about the shooting that had just occurred at San Pedro High School where I teach math.

Interestingly, no calls came from KNX (1070 AM), the all-news station that reported the incident. Unfortunate, considering that there was no shooting, and a call from the station would have verified that fact before the story made it to the local airwaves. Turns out it was a fake 911 call.

Time was when stories were verified before being reported. A long time ago, apparently.

Relax ... Don't Do It

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is lobbying the FCC to further relax local ownership rules so that the major corporations that control radio can own even more stations. They also want the ban on cross ownership of radio stations and newspapers to be lifted.

The NAB's argument centers on the idea that satellite and MP3 players have negatively affected radio, and that without further consolidation, the industry is doomed.

I have a different take. I believe that it is the current consolidation, one in which the same company can own eight stations in one city and a virtually unlimited number nationwide, that has led to the popularity of satellite radio and MP3 players. Since consolidation got a free pass with the telecommunications act of 1996, radio listening has decreased in all demographics every year, and listening among young people -- the future of radio -- is dangerously down.

If radio wants to survive, it has to move the other way. Consolidated ownership has hurt radio and the public it supposedly serves far more than any other influence. The FCC must reject the NAB's claim if it wants the industry to make it into the next decade.


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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