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Airwaves: August 24, 2007

Remaking KNX ... Again

When David G. Hall arrived at KNX (1070 AM) and KFWB (980 AM) in the Fall of 2003, both stations had long lost their luster. Out-newsed by KFI (640 AM) among others and burdened by a high commercial count, the two traditional all-news stations had fallen over the previous decade from solid top-10 Arbitron ratings to barely making the top 25.

Hall's charge was simple (so to speak): fix them. Work his magic like he did when he transitioned KFI from a low-rated soft rock music station to the number one talker in town.

His first order of business was to take the Drama Hour off of KNX. Supposedly because KNX was to focus on news but really because the high-rated program skewed too old, his reason for removing the show became laughable when he added non-news features to the station during the prime late-morning and early-afternoon weekday hours, as well as most of the day on weekends.

As KNX became less and less of a news station under Hall's direction, ratings continued to drop. KFWB also declined, but more from being ignored than anything else. Finally, last March, Hall was moved to KNX exclusively when Andy Ludlam took over programming at KFWB.

Since that time, KFWB has gone up in the ratings. Not much, but enough to be noticed, and often coming in slightly higher than KNX in the trends. So Hall did what any modern corporate programmer would do: pretended he didn't cause the problem to begin with.

Effective last week, KNX has gone back to basics, dropping Money 101 and returning the entire morning to all-news. Indeed, the only non-news hour weekdays is the KNX Business Hour with Frank Mottek; combined with streamlined weekend programming, and you quickly see that KNX as a news station is essentially back.

Even the "all you need to know" jingles are back ... which Hall made a big deal of removing in 2003.

Funny thing, though. Hall is rightfully taking credit for these moves, forgetting that it was his past moves that caused the problem. "At the beginning of the year when I took over the programming of KNX exclusively, I began the process of streamlining our programming toward all-news," he said in a memo to staffers. "We are now taking another major step in that direction."

Don't get me wrong. I do believe these are the right moves. My problem lies in the fact that Hall isn't admitting he made the initial mistake of removing the news in the first place. I shouldn't be surprised, though: Hall was a master of spin when he made any mistakes programming KFI.

In any event, with KNX focussing on news again, where does that leave KFWB? Aren't they both competing for the same audience? Perhaps. The next few months should be interesting.

Imus Goes Where?

Don Imus settled with former employer CBS over his firing earlier this year. If he ends up on New York's WABC as some observers are speculating -- and, by the way that's a BIG if -- will he end up on KABC (790 AM)? Both are now owned by Citadel Communications. Doesn't have to be mornings, remember. Stay tuned ...


Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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