Radio Waves: September 20, 2020

Going back

It’s a tough job programming to a mass audience. Case in point: K-Surf (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2), also known as LA Oldies. The station started playing the early days of Rock and Roll, focussing primarily on the years of 1955-1970.  And listeners were happy.

Then the station added more songs from the 1970s. In general, most listeners remained happy, though a few grumbled about all the new songs being added. But new listeners found the station and overall it worked well.

Later songs from the 1980s started showing up. And the rebellion began. Listeners tended to stay,  but the grumbling got louder, and in general for good reason … KRTH (101.1 FM), KOLA (99.9 FM), and Jack (93.1 FM) were already playing ‘80s hits. Did K-Surf really need to do so as well?

Tough call. On one hand, it makes sense. Add in the best ‘80s tunes while keeping the expanded playlist back to the ‘50s, and you generally keep people tuned in. It would work for someone like me, who tires of one era. But in my experience, most people who love songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s at best tolerate the music from the 1970s, and detest the ‘80s. 

Station owner Saul Levine recognized that it was a problem, and announced last week that K-Surf would be going back a bit more to its roots and is removing ‘80s hits from the playlist. A look at the playlist — you can see everything played on the station for the past three days or so at — proves this to be true.

It’s not all the way back … in fact, I see very few songs form the 1950s at all. But lots from the 1960s and ‘70s, and a good variety at that. From Sam Cooke to War; Vogues to Reo Speedwagon. In general, K-Surf is a station you can just leave on all day and occasionally hear an unexpected treat. With few to no commercials.

Downward Ho!

Only Entercom CEO David Field could think we’d fall for his scheme. He is trying to hype a supposed improved listener experience for local markets by taking away local markets.

In other words, Field is giving up on radio, and he is trying to milk what he can out iff his stations before he kills off the company completely. And he has the gall to call it an “improved listener experience.” Perhaps he is right, after listeners leave his stations for alternatives. 

Here’s the plan: National formats, national and regional talent. Centralized programming. Absolutely nothing local. Think SiriusXM with 15 minuets of commercials per hour instead of being commercial-free. Makes sense, right? Only to David Field.

Two formats per month are expected to be converted to national delivery, according to InsideMusicMedia.Com‘s Jerry Del Colliano who has been reporting on this for weeks. Del Colliano said last week that country and alternative will be the first to go, and this was confirmed Monday by an internal email sent out to Entercom employees and released by AllAccess.Com.

In the email, it was announced that, among other things, Mike Kaplan, programmer of KROQ (106.7 FM) here in Los Angeles, has been named as the national Alternative format program director, and will be called the “format captain.”

It won’t be totally national, at least for now. But talent will be either regional or national, and it is expected that no more than one local personality will remain at any one station. For now, anyway. My hunch is this will devolve into 100 percent national delivery very soon.

Kevin Kenney from New York’s Alt 92.3 will do a national show to be heard on all 15 Entercom Alternative stations at night; KROQ’s own Stryker and Klein will be heard in San Francisco, Dallas, and Kansas City; Cane and Corey from New York will also be heard in Baltimore, Buffalo, Miami and Orlando … the list goes on and on.

There are no Entercom country stations in Los Angeles, but the plan is identical, including the idea that national and regional talent will be used in all shifts except perhaps one per station.

Expect two formats per month to switch to this scheme, including all-news as well as talk stations. The plan is to have national satellite delivery of programming complete for all stations by the end of the year.

In other words, stick a fork in it: Entercom is dead.

Now where are all those corporate radio apologists who said the mega-model has helped radio? Oh, they must be all those guys in the unemployment line. You should have listened instead of supporting, my friends. You supported the devil. He wants his payment now.

Hopefully my prediction will hold that ultimately Entercom et al will totally fail and good, local radio can grow out of the ashes of corporate greed and incompetence.


Former radio therapist Marilyn Kagan, head locally on KFI (640 AM) and the late, great KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) before leaving for television, has died. The news was broken on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com by former KFI host Casey Bartholomew.

“You don’t meet many truly kind, wonderful people in this business, but Marilyn was one of them,” Bartholomew said. Apparently she had been diagnosed with some form of cancer just a few weeks ago. Her exact age is unknown, but she is thought to have been about 68 years old.

Robin Banks, who was heard locally on KNX-FM, KODJ and Arrow 93 (all now Jack-FM) and was also battling cancer, passed away earlier this month. He was at the then-CBS-owned station under various formats from 1989-1997, and was in his early 70s. This news was also broken on LARadio.Com, which was careful to clarify that this is a different Robin Banks than the female Banks who can currently be heard doing traffic reports on various stations.