Radio Waves: 10/27/17

Fire on Mount Wilson

An early morning fire threatened the Observatory as well as numerous broadcast towers on Mount Wilson on October 17th. Many of the most popular and powerful radio stations along with most if not all local television stations transmit from the area.

The fire broke out sometime around 4 a.m. and smoke could be seen from quite a distance. Saul Levine’s Go Country 105 was one of the radio stations that was potentially threatened by the fire; Levine told me that he was ready to go to an alternate transmitter from another site if needed, though that never happened as firefighters had control of the 30-acre blaze fairly quickly. 

In all, over $500 million worth of broadcasting equipment was threatened, and the cause of the blaze was said to be “suspicious.”

Who’s on First?

In just a few days it will be November. And you now what that means: time for KOST (103.5 FM) to make the yearly switch to holiday music.

The big question is when? Last year they made the move a little early to try to help unite the city after the election. This year they could use the same excuse. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t just run it all year … the change always gives the station a huge boost in the ratings.

Besides KOST, Go Country sometimes joins the fray as does SiriusXM, which usually offers multiple channels of holiday music, each with a different focus.

Delaying the Inevitable

Investors are working on a plan to keep iHeart Media out of bankruptcy, at least for now. If it goes through it may signal a new controlling interest for the company that is saddled with about $20 billion — yes billion in debt.

How did it get so far under water? Simple: it got what it wanted. An inept, impotent FCC and Department of Justice that allowed companies to expand far above their ability to operate profitably. Instead of promised efficiencies and expanded listener choices, creativity stagnated and listeners responded by moving elsewhere.

Cost-cutting by owners such as iHeart, CBS, Cumulus and EMF have caused radio to become a background activity rather than foreground. Radio thus lost the ability to charge advertising rates they had in the days when ownership was limited and stations competed for listeners. Without the necessary income, costs were cut again and again with disastrous effects.

The fix? Bring back ownership caps and give preference to local control. In other words, just let the huge McRadio companies die a deserved death and let local owners bring listeners back to radio with programming that makes people want to listen. Compelling content goes a long way.

Bring Back Bonneville

There are a few companies that do a great job of allowing local programmers to do their job without the requirement to always cut costs. Much of what made The Sound KSWD, 100.3 FM) so great as a local station was due to the seed planted by Bonneville Broadcasting when it launched the station ten years ago.

Hopefully if the chance comes up, perhaps Bonneville can re-enter the Los Angeles market it left when it traded The Sound away to Entercom a few years ago.

Preset Selection

Speaking of The Sound … if it was one of the stations on your radio presets, what are you going to replace it with once it goes off the air, assuming it is still on as you read this? Have a good replacement? Or will you be moving to SiriusXM or something else? Let me know.