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Airwaves: March 9, 2007

A Little Bit Country

Country music fans rejoiced when their favorite music returned to the Los Angeles FM airwaves via the return of KKGO-FM (105.1) on February 26th. Classical fans lamented the loss of the last commercial FM classical station in Southern California, as it was KMZT that had to go to make room for KKGO-FM.

But what led to owner Saul Levine's decision to make the change in the first place? While he has long been ribbed for changing the formats on his AM stations seemingly continually, his FM has been pretty stable: Jazz from 1959 to 1989; Classical from 1989 to 2007. Having only two formats in five decades is unheard of.

As it always does, it came down to money. According to Levine, predictions showed a potential drop of 80 percent for the coming year in his advertising income under classical, and that is a drop from an already low starting spot. So he figured he could make more as a country station. Simple economics.

Interestingly, the change could help sell more HD radios. For while the classical music is gone from analog 105.1, it is still available from the HD-2 channel of digital 105.1, and it sounds good. But you do need a new HD radio or tuner to hear it.

Which brings up what I think Levine should do: Keep the classical on FM HD and switch the AM properties back to standards. No one will listen to classical on AM, especially on 540 and 1260, which have awful signals. But time and time again, people have shown that they will listen to standards on AM, including his stations. With classical on HD FM, country on FM and standards on AM, everyone can hear their favorite music.

Go Country

Having been home sick for two days last week, I had a lot of time to listen to the radio, and at least one day was spent locked on KKGO-FM, or Go Country 105. Here is what I found.

Music mix: good. I imagine country music fans will like the mix a bit better than KZLA, which tended to focus a bit on pop country. Go Country is a bit deeper while still maintaining a focus on hits. Variety is good, though there is a difference in song mix between the various dayparts.

Name: bad. You have great calls, use them. KKGO sounds great. Country 105 would sound OK. Go Country sounds stupid.

Presentation: really bad. This is a major Los Angeles FM station with a great signal. So why does it sound canned and automated?

Maybe because it is. Outside of the local and live Shawn Parr morning show, the station gets its programming from Dial Global, a provider of programming for all formats, including country. Usually small-town stations use companies like Dial Global to get formats cheap. And they sound that way: cheap. OK for a small station in a small market, not OK for a major in Los Angeles. If Levine really wants to Go Country, he better get some personalities actually inside his station.

Mister K

It didn't take long for the host formerly known as Mr. KABC to find a new home. Now known simply by his real name -- Marc Germain -- he can be found on KTLK (1150 AM) weekdays from 3 to 7 PM.


Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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