Radio Waves January 1, 2016
No Alternative at KCXX
We start the new year with a format change, although it actually happened last year. At 7 AM on December 22nd, KCXX/Riverside (103.9 FM) played its last alternative rock song (Snuff, by Slipknot) and segued into KHTI, the Inland Empire’s new Hot 103.9 … Move to the Music. Former X103.9 programmer and afternoon jock John DeSantis will stay on to program the new format.
The station promises to play “everyone’s favorites from today’s hot and record chart toppers from the new millennium.” Core artists at launch include Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake among others, generally typical for modern top-40.
According to sources, ratings and revenue declines led to what is described as a “difficult decision” by management. And it most likely was – the station is owned by All Pro Broadcasting, a company headed by former NFL defensive end and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Davis. Only two (of five) stations are owned locally, so it’s not a case of corporate programming … they really want to win.
That’s no consolation to the many fans of X103.9, who have started an online petition to bring the old format back. The alternative rock format launched 20 years ago when a simulcast with KACE in Los Angeles (now KRCD) on the same frequency ended as KACE was sold to Cox Communications. X103.9’s first song was Closer by nine Inch Nails.
“Great things are coming to 103.9,” DeSantis said on his Facebook page, “and I hope you’ll check it out. But nothing will erase the last two decades, and all we’ve experienced.” Added Marketing Director Brian Boget in a statement to AllAccess.Com, “HOT 103.9 will be the entertainment hub for the Inland Empire. We will play nothing but current hits, award amazing giveaways, and fully embrace our listeners digital lifestyles.”
For reasons unknown, I started thinking back to The Machine, a call-in joke and satire service launched in 1969 by some friends attending San Pedro High School and later UCLA. It was cutting-edge at the time using the most modern-technology available: dial up service from Pacific Bell.
Turns out it’s — at least temporarily — back. Just call 310-833-3339, the same number it has been (other than a short time when they had to switch numbers due to The Machine’s popularity) since 1969. The answering system was designed and built (perhaps hacked, due to old rules they got around from Pacific Bell at the time) by The Machine founders Tom Politeo, Tom Plimmer and Steve Stein.
The connection to radio comes from Dr. Demento, who at the time hosted an extremely popular novelty/satire program on KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) Sunday nights. As was I, the good doctor was a fan of The Machine … proven by the letter he sent to the young men in 1974.
I reached out to the good Doctor to see if he remembered. “Ah, the memories! My first electric typewriter, and some notepaper a listener made for me. Thanks so much. I’ll have to prowl the archives for that tape!”
By the way, you can still hear The Dr. Demento Show via the internet at www.DrDemento.Com. You can then check out The Machine’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Machine-257015944453423/
Excellence in Broadcasting
KFI (640 AM) shined the day LAUSD closed all schools due to a perceived threat on December 15. From direct news coverage — KFI consistently features some of the best news reporting in town — to hosts who often acted as knowledgable facilitators between the various news reports and live feeds from the field, the coverage was superb.
Expectations for 2016
I’m not expecting much in the way of change for most stations in Los Angeles. I do expect that Cumulus will be the first of the major radio group owners to be delisted by the stock exchange, ultimately leading to bankruptcy. What that will do depends on investors and regulators … I’m personally hoping that the lack of success on the part of all major group owners will cause regulators to re-think their fully-failed plan of deregulation and virtually unlimited ownership caps.
It is time for the FCC and Congress to reinstate limits, perhaps in stages leading to no more than three radio or television stations in any market, so that real local radio returns to our airwaves. It probably won’t happen in 2016, but one can hope.
Happy new year!