Radio Waves: 5/25/18

Honoring Watson and Morris 

The Los Angeles radio scene lost two good friends recently.

Bill Watson, who helped make RKO top-40 radio stations into regional format leaders as national program director under consultants Bill Drake and Gene Chenault, died May 15th at the age of 88. 

Watson was Drake’s right-hand man and worked with RKO’s KHJ (930 AM) here in Los Angeles in the mid to late 1960s, along with KFRC/San Francisco, WRKO/Boston, WOR/New York, and some stations outside of the RKO chain that Drake and Chenault consulted such as KGB/San Diego, KYNO/Fresno and CKLW/Windsor, Ontario that sent its massive signal into the Detroit area.

At KHJ he was technically above local program director Ron Jacobs, though Jacobs was given the power to do what he wanted. Interestingly, it was Jacobs who gave Watson his first local job out in the Inland Empire when he hired Watson as afternoon drive DJ and programmer of KMEN (now KKDD, 1290 AM) in the early 1960s. Under Watson, KMEN jumped from worst to first, earning ratings as high as 70 … meaning 70 percent of listeners were tuned to KMEN.

After Jacobs resigned from his position at KHJ in 1969, the station went through a few programmers before Drake brought in Watson to program KHJ directly. I am told — though I have not confirmed — that under Watson, KHJ earned its highest rating ever. 

Eventually, Drake, Chenault and Watson left KHJ to take over programming of K-100 (KIQQ, now KKLQ, 100.3 FM), later moving on to the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) where he programmed from 1975-78 and again from 1982-87 when he retired from broadcasting.

Mark Morris, one of the nicest guys in radio, passed away May 2nd. He was 54.

Morris was both in front of and behind the microphone of numerous local stations including Loyola Marymount’s KXLU (88.9 FM), KNAC (now KBUE, 105.5 FM), the original KMPC and KRLA (1110 AM), among others. Most recently he could be heard hosting a show on Hot92.3TheBeat.Com. 

Always with a smile on his face and a humorous story or jke at the ready, Morris rarely missed a chance to get together with friends and colleagues at the radio reunions held periodically at Fuddruckers in Burbank. Unfortunately, his health had been declining the last few years and he died of a ruptured fistula.

Mo’ Nominations

Morris O’Kelly, known to his fans as Mo’Kelly, has been nominated for six Southern California Journalism awards, including Radio Journalist of the Year.

O’Kelly’s show can be heard on KFI (640 AM) Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 8 p.m. The awards, which are presented by the Los Angeles Press Club, will be announced at a banquet on June 24th.

Others nominated for Radio Journalist of the Year are freelance Deepa Fernandes and KCRW’s (89.3 FM) Susan Valot.

Bad Ratings

Nielsen announced last week that it has removed four homes from the ratings panel for Los Angeles, and will be releasing revised ratings for the metro area going back to October, 2017.

The four households were removed for “non-compliant behavior, which is a generic term for “they did something we don’t like.”

Being that a household can have more than one meter, a device that “listens” to audio to determine what station is being heard, and the effect multiplies. One observer said that a top station with a share of 5.0 (five percent of the listening audience) may have only 12-14 meters detecting it … so four households with as many as 20 meters or so could have a huge effect. We will find out as the revised ratings are released over the next few weeks.