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Airwaves: September 19, 2008

Putnam Passes

Longtime radio and television personality George Putnam passed away September 11th after months of problems related to a kidney ailment. He was 94.

Putnam is a Los Angeles legend whose career began at the age of 20 when he answered phones and played records on WDGY/Minneapolis. He moved over to NBC’s radio network in the late 1930s, worked with Armed Forces Radio after being drafted during World War II, made the switch to television when DuMont hired him after the war, and shared the role of the voice for the Fox Movietone News reels with Lowell Thomas.

But it was in Los Angeles where he really made his mark. In 1951 he went to work at KTTV Channel 11 as the station’s news anchor. Here he further developed his style of reporting the news that often blurred the lines between reporter and commentator. This continued as he moved to KTLA Channel 5, back to KTTV and again to KTLA during the sixties and seventies. You could also find him for short tiles at KCOP Channel 13 and KHJ-TV (now KCAL) Channel 9; each time he was among the top-rated newscasters.

It is rumored that his style of broadcasting was the inspiration for the character of Ted Baxter on CBS Television’s Mary Tyler Moore Show, though no one will state that outright. Certainly the credentials are there: my friend and former high school English teacher Dick Bergeron told me of watching Putnam when he first arrived in Los Angeles from Minnesota in the late 1960s: “I thought it was a joke at first. He said that he would first tell you the news, and then tell you what to think. I couldn’t believe it.”

In 1976 he started a show on KIEV (now KRLA 870 AM) called TalkBack, and he remained on the station continually for almost 30 years. In 2004, the show moved to CRN Digital Talk Radio, available on many cable and satellite services, and was syndicated to a handful of stations on the East coast.

Considered a staunch conservative by many, Putnam said he was a lifelong Democrat. His show will continue on under the leadership of his former producer, Chuck Wilder.

Country KLSX

KLSX (97.1 FM) is now simulcasting the signal of co-owned Inland Empire CBS sister station KFRG (95.1 FM) on its HD-2 digital stream. You need a new HD radio to hear it.

It’s a strange development for a variety of reasons. For example, because HD signals are limited to one percent of a station’s analog power, the analog signal from KFRG can reach every place that KLSX’s HD-2 signal can reach ... and more. So having the simulcast does nothing to increase the coverage area of KFRG at all.

Secondly, word on the street has CBS selling KFRG in the near future anyway, along with a few other stations in the IE. So unless KLSX is planning to drop talk for country -- a very doubtful idea -- I just can’t figure out what’s up. Hopefully the lack of compelling new content on the secondary HD channels is not the master plan of new Los Angeles CBS radio head Roy Laughlin.

No Jackson

The one local show on KGIL (1260 AM and 540 AM) has been pulled, as Michael Jackson’s contract was not renewed. KGIL is now filled with syndicated programming. That’s just too bad.


Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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