Radio Waves: 12/30/16

Remembering Art Astor

Most people wouldn’t necessarily know the name Art Astor, one of the last independent radio broadcasters in Southern California. But those who knew him knew a man who not only successfully ran a small number of radio stations in the area but at one time had one of the largest private collections of automobiles and auto-related memorabilia in the country. Astor passed away December 7th at the age of 91.

Born Nubar Arthur Astor on April 26, 1925 in Fresno, Astor was General Sales Manager of KHJ (930 AM) from 1965-1970, some of the most profitable years ever for one of the most profitable stations ever.

In 1970 he left KHJ to become General manager of KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM); in 1972 to moved to Drake-Chenault Enterprises as executive Vice President and General Manager. By 1979 he was able — with two other investors — to purchase KORJ/Garden  (which he changed to KIKF/Garden Grove and is now KBUE, 94.3 FM), the station that would become the Flagship for what would become Astor Broadcasting.

Other station were added to the group including stations that are still part of Astor Broadcast Group today: KSPA (1510 AM) and KCEO (1000 AM) in the Inland Empire, and KFSD (1540 AM) in North San Diego County. KIKF was sold in 2004.

Astor was a car fanatic, and started what would eventually become a collection of over 250 collectable automobiles when he purchased a 1967 Jaguar sedan. Additionally, he collected and restored a huge number of vintage radios and telephones. Much of the collection was sold at auction in 2008, though he still held on to a substantial number of his favorites.

“The Astor car collection was amazing. While a private collection, Art was very generous to allow groups like the Motor Press Guild and the Society of Automotive Engineers to tour” noted automotive consultant Dean Case.

Astor passed away after a long battle with cancer, and services were held December 23rd. He was the inspiration for many young broadcasters and behind-the-scenes people who knew him; the phrase “class act” seems to fit him. He is survived by three children and nine grandchildren; his wife of over 50 years passes away in 2014.

Saving AM by Killing It

There are periodic attempts to “save” AM radio, America’s oldest broadcast band. Some ideas are dubious at best, such as the use of FM translators — low-powered FM transmitters designed to simulcast the AM signal on the FM band. I personally feel that moving kore people to FM is hardly the best way to save AM.

Now comes word that some people and organizations, including a group called the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), are lobbying President-Elect Trump and the FCC to consider just shutting the band down. Few listen to AM anyway, they say, so why not move the existing stations to FM or a new band and use the AM frequencies for something else such as telecommunications.

Sure. Just as cutting off your arm will help make your hand feel better.

The problem with AM has little to do with the band itself. Yes, AM has some problems such as man-made and atmospheric interference. Not to mention cheaply-made receivers that cannot do justice to the band. But the primary problem is programming … there are few reasons to listen.

Shutting down AM? That’s just a way to convince Trump and the FCC to give free FM frequencies to companies that already cannot program well. Not the best idea.