Radio Waves: June 16, 2023

Goodbye, Jeff Baugh

These are getting difficult to write: we lost another good one last week.

Jeff Baugh, who reported on traffic conditions and major news stories from the air for almost 40 years, passed away June 6th due to lung cancer. He was 81.

Baugh was with only three stations his entire Los Angeles radio career: KFWB (980 AM) starting in 1986, followed by KNX (1070 AM … the FM simulcast did not exist at the time) in 2008, and KFI from 2017 until his death. His approach to traffic reporting was listener-driven – he didn’t believe it was enough to report on an incident, he understood the importance of making the reports relevant and useful by explaining, whenever possible, how to get around the problem.

LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett was a friend of Baugh’s; he says that Baugh’s smile was contagious … one “that you would never forget – a smile that would light up the dreariest of skies.” 

Born in Brooklyn on November 15, 1942, Baugh was a Marine who served two tours in Vietnam. After the war he eventually found himself in Los Angeles where he became a DJ at Carlos and Charlie’s on the Sunset Strip until he landed at KFWB. As an airborne reporter, he was the recipient of numerous awards including multiple Golden Mikes, the award of awards for local news reporting.

Back Live

Live 105 (KITS/San Francisco) was the Bay Area’s alternative music source for over 30 years before first switching its name to “Alt 105.3” in 2017 and then changing its name and format to the soul-less adult hits Jack-FM clone called “Dave FM” just under two years ago.

Well, that didn’t work, so Live 105 is back. The switch happened on June 2nd and included a fairly creative pre-recorded promo announcing the change, including a short portion of the classic Cheech and Chong routine stating that “Dave’s not here!” 

The change back has caused quite a buzz throughout the area, including coverage from local newspapers and television stations, as well as posts all over social media and studies from industry observers. Headlines such as “Listeners rejoice as Live 105 returns to the airwaves” are common.

Currently the station is running jockless; DJs are expected on the air in the coming weeks. As I tuned in on the internet stream, though, one thing stuck out … in its current form — like our own KROQ (106.7 FM) — it is basically an oldies station. I listened for an hour earlier in the day before writing this and heard only a few songs released in the pasts three years.

Perhaps it is by design; Live 105 and KROQ are both owned by the same company — Audacy — so perhaps copying KROQ is policy. Or it could be that the play list was still filled by many of the former Dave-FM songs … as so many semi-alternative songs can also be found on Jack-FM right here … also owned by Audacy.

My hope, though, is that new songs will become more prevalent and help make the format a success, which may help spread the idea to here.

Overall, I’d say this is a tremendously positive move. Now we just need to get the big 610 KFRC back on the air … Live trivia: Alt 98.7’s “The Woody Show” originated at Live 105 and was heard there until it was removed from the air for reasons that still are not totally clear. Their loss is our gain, of course.

Changes at KABC

Host Leo Terrell and programmer Drew Hayes are both out at KABC (790 AM). It appears that Hayes was let go and that Terrell left on his own terms in response. Left unsaid is what will happen with the rest of the station. For now, no one is talking.

But something does need to be done. It has been decades since KABC was truly relevant; too many syndicated programs and a woeful lack of promotion left the station so low in the ratings that many industry watchers were wondering when, not if, a change would come.

Personally, if I owned the station, I’d switch it to music. Perhaps a full service format backed by the oldies — or mellow rock — that you no longer hear on the radio.

But if management wants to keep it talk, start with the strengths, primarily mid-day son John Phillips. Phillips has a way of making politics and local issues entertaining and informative without preaching to the choir, and is definitely, by far, the best show on the station. 

Once the hosts are chosen, it is imperative to clean up the on-air presentation. Too many programs sound like a bad college or high-school station, with volume levels uneven, unclear sound, music played too loud over the host making it difficult to hear, and an overall sound that screams low-budget. Additionally, promotional announcements sound too much like they are talking at listeners not to listeners.

Strange that the station that launched full-time talk in Los Angeles does it so badly today.

It could work, though. Once mostly live and local hosts are in place — you can keep a few of the syndicated podcast shows  — then it’s time to clean up the sound by dumping all pre-recorded promos and make them all read by the hosts themselves. I don’t need to hear the deep-voice guy say “Dan – Bon – Gino” exactly the same way multiple times each day, every day.

Just a thought, anyway. Let me ask you this – what would you do with KABC?