Radio Waves: August 5, 2022

Radio Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago announced this week the final selection of nine new inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame. Of the nine, three have a direct connection to our local radio scene and one is a a favorite current morning jock.

Our big local winner: Ellen K, heard mornings on KOST (103.5 FM). If you listen you already know – Ellen exudes positive vibes on her show, one of the reasons she is consistently among the top-rated morning personalities in town among varying demographic groups. What you may not know is that she is an active volunteer in local community work, and — prior to her arrival at KIIS-FM (102.7 FM), she worked in San Diego, including at the legendary KFMB-FM (B-100) when she was known as Ellen Thomas … making her a Goddess in the radio world.

I have never heard a negative word from her nor her competitors … including those who competed directly against her. Perhaps the saying is true: the best “morning man” in town is a woman.

Walt “Baby” Love did not win for his work on KHJ (930 AM) in the early-mid 1970s, but that’s how I originally heard of him. Instead, he is being recognized for his work in creating and hosting the syndicated program celebrating Gospel music, Gospel Traxx. 

Love is an ordained Deacon and Elder in The African Methodist Episcopal Church, and is currently an associate pastor at the First African Methodist Church Los Angeles, also known as FAME. No local stations carry his program, but you can catch it online.

Jeff Smulyan’s connection to local radio is from the time his Emmis Communications owned KMGG (105.9 FM), which became KPWR Power 106 and the most popular music station in town for a while in the late 1980s. I was there as an intern for the switch – it was quite a fun time. When Power was at its peak as a rhythmic top-40 station, Emmis owned the top-rated stations in the two largest markets at the same time: Los Angeles and New York. That’s quite a feat.

Emmis is no longer involved in local radio, and owns just a handful of stations — all in Indianapolis, Indiana and New York, New York. The company currently focusses on sales and marketing, and in that way still has a connection to Los Angeles via Sound That Brands, a podcast marketing company developed by former Sound programmer Dave Beasing that was purchased by Emmis in 2019; Beasing acts as the CEO of the division.

Other inductees include Mark Dyson, a radio executive; Lon Helton, for his Country Music Countdown; “Broadway” Bill Lee for his work at WCBS-FM/New York; Carol Miller for her work at WAXQ-FM/New York; Chris “Mad Dog” Russo” from SiriusXM; and Suzyn Waldman from the New York Yankees Radio Network, part of WFAN/New York.

Too many New York people there … have to work on that next year. Or perhaps the Hall of Fame being put together by our own Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters/Hollywood Media Professionals will take care of the void.

Pointless Contest

Radio stations used to run contests in order to generate a buzz … excitement for listeners and a reason to tune in. That was the old days. Apparently current owners and managers forgot why contests exist at all, and have turned an old, effective tune-in to a modern tune-out.

I am thinking specifically of the current word game being pushed by iHeart Radio’s cluster of stations, including Alt 98.7, KIIS-FM, KFI (640 AM) and the rest. The concept itself is almost somewhat sound – DJs give a word of the hour, which listeners can then enter into a special box on each station’s web site. Which leads to problem number one: no excitement. Because it’s not a call in, nor winners apparently ever announced — at least I have not heard one yet — it becomes just more clutter. No one cares.

Then you add in the fact that it’s not even specific to the station you’re listening to. Nor the cluster of stations owned locally. In actuality, you’re competing against listeners from every iHeart station in every city. That’s 860 stations in 160 markets. Think you have a very good chance of winning? Hint: no.

And finally you find out it’s only a $1000 prize. Sounds great, except that KHJ once gave away $1000 a day for a month. all to local listeners of just one station. Another time they gave away a car a day for a month, and those contests were in the 1970s and ‘80s. KIIS-FM in the 1980s likewise had blockbuster contests with trips, cars, and a Daily Cash Payoff … Kind of typical of contests of the era. Even stations with small promotional budgets gave away albums and such to listeners. $1000 spread among 860 stations? That’s barely over $1 per station. No wonder they never announce winners. I’d be embarrassed if I worked for iHeart, too.