Radio Waves: 9/2/16

The Rest of the Story

I was a HUGE fan of London and Engelman when they were heard on KRTH (101.1 FM) and K-WEST/Magic 106 (now Power 106 FM) in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The wacky duo — who would do spoofs of television shows and often bring listeners and advertisers into their bits — left Los Angeles for Tampa, Florida and then San Francisco in 1984, never to be heard locally again. And unfortunately, it was soon after that when they broke up and went their separate ways. The breakup was the definition of “ugly.”

John London ended up doing talk shows in San Francisco while former partner Ron Engelman went to Boston, back to San Francisco, and Dallas, and a handful of other cities. He passed away August 29, 2007 following a three-year battle with lung cancer.

A reader of Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com asked about the program; Barrett added some information about Engelman’s life I had not heard before.

“In early 1993, Ron became a talk host at KGBS-Dallas, wrote Barrett. “Shortly after his arrival, all hell broke loose. ‘Waco hit and all of a sudden I and the station became a link with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians,’ said Ron. ‘Tapes of my show were being monitored and obtained by the FBI. I was on virtually every single press outlet. At one stage the Branch Davidians hung a banner from the fortress that said WE WANT RON ENGELMAN.’

“The government would not let Ron approach the compound and controversy swirled. He made an emphatic point that he did not agree with David Koresh, but, as Ron said, ‘POWs during the war were treated more humanely.’ After the Waco incident, he lost his job and had “a real, real tough two years.”

The other fact I had never heard? His lung cancer was apparently related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He died at the age of 68. I was lucky enough to converse with him via email shortly before his death.

Ratings Problems

Nielsen isn’t giving specifics, but they ratings company is “dismissing” 35 households representing 55 people holding Portable People Meter ratings collection devices that automatically “listen” and decode radio station signals in order to calculate ratings.

Nielsen says it is because of “irregular compliance patterns” — meaning something didn’t look right in those reports — and that the company’s “quality standards” were not met.

According to Nielsen, the households and people involved account for very little in the overall calculation of ratings. Which overall may be true … but as some station owners have pointed out, if you’re not in the top-tier of the ratings or if your station relies on particular demographics, those PPM holders COULD make a huge difference in the ratings. It is well-known that the PPM is the best we currently have but it is woefully deficient in having enough meters in the field for accurate measurements in all demographic breakdowns.

Ownership Rules Stand

While I didn’t get my wish — a return to limited ownership rules such that no more than 20 AM, FM or television stations can be owned by any one company nationwide nor more than three in any one market — the FCC finally showed a little backbone by not recommending further loosening of the current ownership limits.

Broadcast companies want looser rules even though the deregulation model has been a dismal failure. Since allowing single entities to own as many as eight stations in large markets and virtually as many as they want nationwide, radio stocks have nosedived in value while huge debt loads have killed creativity … leading to huge declines in revenue and opening the door for alternative entertainment services.

Perhaps the FCC leaving things as-is is a start. Now it’s time to lobby the Commission and Congress to bring back real ownership limits and (sorry to borrow this slogan) make radio great again.