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Airwaves: December 9, 2011

Less Talk in The City

It was just a short time ago -- mid September -- that Citadel Broadcasting merged with Cumulus Media, making Cumulus the second-largest radio station owner in America with a bit under 800 stations total, just behind Clear Channel Communications and their roughly 850 properties. Since that time we’ve seen hat we’ve gotten used to in the age of consolidation -- the firing of longtime station personnel and another reason to listen to satellite radio or iPods.

Up in San Francisco, Cumulus had a bloodletting at KGO. Gone are numerous personalities and most of the format; instead of a news/talk approach, the focus will be on news alone, with KGO going more directly against all-news KCBS.

What makes this interesting are two things. First, KGO was far from being a failure. The most recent Arbitrons show that the station has stayed fairly consistent in the ratings, recently at 7th place with a 4.2 share of the audience. In June they were 4.2 as well, so any ideas of a sudden drop forcing a change are flat out wrong. More likely, it was the mantra of modern radio: cut costs, as the owners feel we are too stupid to notice that our favorite personalities are gone.

Second is the LA tie in. Oh, yes, Cumulus owns KABC (790 AM) in Los Angeles as well. KABC, a once proud station that was run into the ground by bad management dating back more than two decades, since George Green retired as General Manager. Yes, Citadel accelerated the pace of decline, but make no mistake, KABC has been on a decline for years.

There were some firings at KABC and sister KLOS (95.5 FM) just recently, but nothing on the scale of KGO ... due in part to the numerous syndicated programs that are already free or dirt cheap. However, I do believe that KABC’s time may have come and gone as a talk station. I would not be surprised if the former top-rated talker abandons the format much as KGO did and goes right after KNX (1070 AM). And I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens by the end of the year.

Not what I would chose, mind you, as I would rather have music and I would miss Larry Elder. But in some sense, there is a void in Los Angeles for all news in the way that KFWB (980 AM) once covered it ... give them 22 minutes, they’ll give you the world. Remember, KFWB actually beat KNX in the ratings for a time toward the end of their all-news run.

Flying High

Former KLOS personality Jim Ladd, who lost his position at the classic rock outlet in October, is moving to the bird.

Starting in January, Ladd will be found on SiriusXM’s Deep Tracks Channel 27, hosting a nightly program “playing everything I want,” he said in a press release. It will also be live, allowing him to take listener calls as he spins tunes on what may very well be the last freeform radio show on a commercial outlet. the starting date and show time have not been released yet.

I’d like to see it go further. Take KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) national. See if former KMET programmer Sam Bellamy would come in to program or consult, hire Jeff Gonzer, Shana, Pat Kelly, Frazier Smith, David Perry, Dr. Demento ... and do what The Sound (100.3 FM) should have done with one of its HD channels: just recreate KMET. Not as an oldies/classic rock station necessarily, but with the freeform spirit and respect for listeners that KMET used to have. Put it on Channel 94 (point 7) ... I bet it would be one of the more popular channels on satellite radio.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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