Radio Waves: 2/14/20

Honoring DJs who became game show hosts

The Hollywood Media Professionals, formerly known as the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, has a treat in store for members at its upcoming luncheon at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys on March 13: it’s the Diamond Jubilee, honoring 75 years of game shows.

Scheduled to appear on the dais is Michael Burger, Peter Marshall, Wink Martindale, Mark Summers, and Bob Eubanks.

I don’t believe that Burger was in radio, but Marshall started his entertainment career as a DJ in Naples, Italy while in the Army, and Summers was in radio — somewhere — in his early days as well.

Martindale and Eubanks, though, were big time local radio guys before they made it big in television. Martindale is perhaps best remembered locally for his work on KFWB (980 AM) and the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM), but he came to Los Angeles after leaving WHBQ/Memphis for KHJ (930 AM) — the same thing Rick Dees did 20 years after Martindale did it in 1959! He was also heard on the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) and KGIL (now KSUR, 1260 AM).

Eubanks started his radio career at KACY/Oxnard, then made the move to the original KRLA where, among other things, he became synonymous with the Beatles. It was Eubanks who mortgaged a house to get the money to bring the Beatles out to the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. He was the promoter for the Beatles Hollywood Bowl show again in 1965, along with many other concerts of the era including the Rolling Stones.

Entercom Follows iHeart

The idea that competitors of iHeart would soon start cutting their own talent rather than using the opportunity of a weakened, wounded iHeart to lift up their open stations came true and has already begun: as reported by Jerry Del Colliano of industry news site Inside Music Media, Entercom — owner of KRTH (101.1 FM), KTWV (94.7 FM), KCBS-FM (93.1), KNX (1070 AM), KROQ (106.7 FM) and KAMP (97.1 FM) has developed a plan such that its stations will have no personalities after 8 p.m. nightly. In some markets, no personalities after 7. 

There is no conformation that all Los Angeles stations will be affected, but you can bet there will be some. And the effect nationwide to the 235 Entercom-owned stations will mean hundreds of positions cut.

The thinking of CEO David Field, who will spend money on nothing but himself, is that no one actually listens to radio at night, so why bother staffing it with a live body. This, of course, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the same as with overnights, which often lost live DJs years ago, when you offer little of what makes local radio local, you not surprisingly attract few listeners. 

The problem is, like a local coffee house that closes early because there are not as many customers in the later hours, you are actually giving your customers a reason to check out the competition … it’s why so many small shops lost out to Starbucks and the like. In the case of radio, you send your listeners to competing media services: iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

More Cuts Expected

The word on the street is that iHeart plans to make far more cuts than previously thought. Will the company be down to only 6000-something employees — about half what they had at the end of 2019? Some are predicting it. This in anticipation of a buyout from Liberty Media, owner of SiriusXM. What they plan to do with iHeart is unknown, but it is interesting that Liberty seems to be less interested now. Hmm…

For its part, Cumulus is apparently busy firing highly-paid male market managers and replacing them with lower-paid women. This according to a discrimination lawsuit filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, says Del Colliano.

Not a good time to be in corporate radio.

New Station

The FCC gave final approval for a construction permit for the long-awaited return of 1500 AM. I am told the call letters are KWIF, and will be licensed to the city of Culver City with a transmitter site in Montecito Heights. Format is unknown.

1500 AM has a long history in local radio. It was once the home of KBLA, a station that included DJs Dave Diamond, Vic Gee — aka Jim Carson, Tom Clay, Roger Christian, Huggy Boy, and Humble Harve. A later incarnation was KROQ — the precursor to our current KROQ-FM — and included Charlie Tuna, Sam Riddle, Jim Wood, and Jimmy Rabbit.

The 1500 AM frequency has been off the air in Los Angeles since the early 1980s.