1510 talk format & programming AM & FM

Mike Ward mward@iname.com
Fri Jun 6 05:47:57 EDT 2014

Since Scott mentioned KFBK, and since I'm the only ex-KFBK staffer on the
BRI list :)

KFBK is a very unique situation.

It was languishing as an also-ran news/talk competitor in the Sacramento
market in the early 1980s. KFBK was a distant second to KGNR/1320, the
leading news/talk station with "Dave and Bob" in the morning.

'Round about 1984, the station fired one Morton Downey, Jr. as its midday
talk show host. Yes, that Morton Downey, Jr. He made a comment about an
Asian-American city councilman which many considered racist.

KFBK took a chance on a not-very-seasoned host to replace him. Rush
Limbaugh had been doing evening talk commentaries at a Kansas City radio
station, after a stint in the marketing department at the Kansas City
Royals. To the best of my memory, he MAY have had an evening show at (I
believe) KMBZ.

>From 1984 to 1988, Rush fueled KFBK into market dominance. He ended up
doing TV stints, and the market was covered with billboards with a picture
of an AM car radio, finger at a preset to 1530 AM, and the legend, "Don't
you just want to punch Rush?"

Rush's amazing performance at KFBK (well into double-digit shares by the
time you hit his fourth year) caught the attention of one Edward F.
McLaughlin, who was tipped to his Sacramento dominance by a consultant.

Rush actually had a clause in his KFBK contract that he could leave if he
got an offer from a top 10 market. Since the EFM Media syndication effort
was unproven, WABC/770 New York became his flagship station...and at the
time, Rush did a local show for WABC in addition to his national show. That
lasted about a year or two, and WABC ended up taking the whole national
show. And the rest..is history.

But though Rush certainly rocketed KFBK to the top of the ratings, his
story isn't the only component of AM 1530's success in Sacramento.

Remember "Dave and Bob" at KGNR?

KFBK hired them away. Eventually, when Bob Nathan left the show, Metro
Traffic's Amy Lewis turned it the morning all-news block into "Dave and
Amy", with an impressive 15 year run. Amy is still in morning drive at KFBK
to this day, co-anchoring with Ed Crane. Dave's at KLIF/570 in Dallas
(paired with another Amy, oddly enough).

Rush's local show at KFBK (and his first year nationally) was 9-11 AM
Pacific. That 11 AM-noon hour, now covered by his national show, was filled
locally in the late 1980s by a local stockbroker KFBK hired to do business
news updates. The show eventually moved to 1-4 PM PT, now 12-3 PM PT, as a
general topic show hosted by...Tom Sullivan, who still airs on KFBK today
with his now-national Fox News Radio show. He was a local host until a few
years ago and also dominant in the market.

Afternoon drive was covered by another local news block, with Gregg Fishman
and Kitty O'Neal - later Jeff Bell took over co-hosting with Kitty. Kitty
is still solo anchoring KFBK afternoon drive to this day. Jeff's on
KCBS/740 San Francisco in the same time slot, Fish is running for a seat on
the local utility's board.

Evenings were also local, with hosts like Christine Craft, Bob Dunning,
Spencer Hughes (later Fox News Radio and now KSFO/560 SF) and Mark Williams.

KFBK had a large news reporting staff. At one point in the 1990s, we had 6
full-time field reporters (and it turns into "we" because I was one of
them, from 1994 to 2001).

Yeah, that's a long history.

It is posted solely to point out that yes, though Rush Limbaugh certainly
fueled KFBK's success in his 4 years there and then nationally, KFBK built
an amazing station around Rush that has lasted to this day.

On Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 12:48 PM, M.Casey <map@mapinternet.com> wrote:

> Really well thought out essay by Scott.
> There's some truth to the "parasite" comment.
> Political talk radio, while successful when placed on a successful
> Heritage station, as a format by itself, is mostly a failed venture. So, I
> doubt any fully talk formatted station whether it be liberal or
> conservative, will ever be really successful. Maybe 5% of the population is
> really interested in politics, or listening to political debate on a
> regular basis. Some of the 95% will listen to political comments for very
> short periods of time, then back to music or sports, or for short periods
> of time, to news.
> Most of the Heritage stations have their own very successful morning and
> evening drive talent. Talk does OK in the mid-day period, when most folks
> are at work.   So, the heritage stations have a talented talker like Rush
> or Hannity to pull in some listeners during those non-drive times when most
> folks are listening to music on the radio, or not listening to radio at
> all. I'd say there's a case to be made that some of the more Extreme
> talkers, like Savage, might even hurt a Heritage station in general-even
> when they only run them in the evening or on the weekend.  I'm surprised
> that more stations don't pick up a program like Clark Howard to run when
> they don't have a talented local during the day before or after Rush, or to
> run in the evening instead of a Savage or Beck type. But, there doesn't
> seem to be many (or any) well done syndicated programs that are not
> political, like Clark Howard's, or even just less politically acidic,
> available. So, maybe that's why some stations get stuck with the extreme
> talkers. WTIC-AM runs Howard 8-10pm when sports aren't on.  And they have a
> talented local conservative-liberatarian, Jim Vicevich, on from 9am to
> noon. I'd like to see if Jim's number of listeners aren't , maybe, even
> better than Rush's on WTIC.  But, I'll bet that either of those mid-day
> slots pale, in numbers of listeners to the morning and evening drive
> periods.
> WHYN, WHAM or WOWO would probably succeed as much or better with shows
> like Clark Howard, the local talk guy,  Swap Shop, and the Mayor's show,
> from 10am to 4pm, than with Rush/Hannity/Beck, etc. And they'd probably do
> just as well with 2 talented liberal talkers as with 2 talented
> conservative talkers. Thom Hartman, though not too well known,  comes to
> mind as a talented liberal talker comparing with Rush & Hannity.
> I've always been surprised that radio station programmers pay little
> attention to weekends. TV has started to learn that folks want their
> wake-up show on Sat & Sun. also. But radio has gotten much worse--many more
> pay for play ad shows on than in the past.  Until a few years ago WHYN-AM
> had a live (or even taped) morning show host on Sat & Sun mornings, but
> they dropped that, so I stopped listening to WHYN-AM at all and switched to
> the morning host & music that's on 7 days a week on several of the FM
> stations.  WTIC-AM has a live Sat morning show which is great, but Sun
> morning is Ric Edelman that, while not too bad for a commercial program,
> causes listeners like me to change the channel after a few minutes.
> What will radio be like 20 yrs. from now?  I think many of the music
> stations will still be around. And, most of the Heritage stations, large
> and small, that maintain a degree local programming and news will be
> around. The rest will be similcasts, or specialty ethnic, religious, or
> formats that barely sell enough to stay on the air, selling spots that
> almost no one will hear. The value of radio stations in general will
> decrease. We may have another round of AM stations going off the air
> altogether and the $23,000 a month tower site rental comment comes to mind
> as a real reason for that. But, radio will continue for many years. I can't
> imagine that the (sort of frail) cell-phone system, tablets and memory
> cards will completely replace broadcast radio.
> Mark Casey
> -----Original Message----- From: Scott Fybush
> Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2014 2:42 PM
> To: boston-radio-interest@lists.BostonRadio.org
> Subject: Re: New 1510 talk format to launch next Monday
> Unlike Bob, I'm only going to say this once... <g>
> We have yet to see - and will likely never see - a truly fair fight
> between a "progressive" talker and a "conservative" talker.
> The unifying thread that links nearly every successful "conservative"
> talk station - and that is almost uniformly missing from every
> unsuccessful talker, on any side of the political spectrum - is
> "stationality."
> The class of stations that became initially successful on the back of
> Rush Limbaugh started with a massive head start: they were stations that
> enjoyed both the signal and heritage advantages that came from 60 or 70
> years of name recognition in their communities. WGAN, WGIR, WTAG, WPRO,
> WHYN, WELI, WTIC, WGY...and the list goes on from coast to coast. Every
> last one of those stations does fairly well (even with an aging
> audience) not just because of the syndicated conservative talkers they
> carry in middays and evenings, but because of the local news and talk
> and sports that they wrap around those syndicated shows. With decades of
> heritage to work from, many of those stations (like my local WHAM here
> in Rochester) have managed to maintain the illusion of being "THE voice
> of...wherever" even as they've slashed those local staffs to shreds. (I
> believe the WHAM newsroom is down to two fulltimers, a handful of
> part-timers, news audio from former sister WHAM-TV and a bunch of
> anchors from WSYR and WGY).
> Nobody in the industry is eager to do the research that would prove it,
> for obvious reasons, but I'm reasonably convinced at this point that the
> WHAMs and WOWOs and KFBKs of the world succeed these days as much in
> spite of Rush and Hannity and Savage, as because of them.
> Now here's the challenge: name even one "progressive" talk station
> that's been able to launch with that same advantage. You can't, because
> nobody has ever tried one, in large part because conservative talk
> showed up first and took hold at the vast majority of those heritage AMs.
> Probably the closest we've come in a quarter-century of the modern talk
> format has been WTDY in Madison, which had some degree of full-service
> heritage and formatics when it went leftward, and KPOJ in Portland,
> which revived a long-dead callsign and tried to inject some localism.
> But those are weak-tea comparisons - WTDY never had the name recognition
> in town that the heritage AM, WIBA, enjoyed, and it fell victim to
> in-format competition from WIBA's Clear Channel sister, WXXM. For its
> part, KPOJ always played second fiddle to the real local heritage AM,
> KEX, even within the Clear Channel cluster there.
> It bears noting that it's not just "progressive" talk that has uniformly
> failed when put on second- and third-tier stations with no heritage or
> stationality. Look at the failure of Rush Radio/Talk 1200 in Boston, or
> WWIQ in Philadelphia, or at the sub-1.0 numbers that Salem's talkers
> pull in most major markets (in some cases despite a fairly robust local
> effort and a heritage set of calls, such as WIND in Chicago.)
> We know that even now, conservative talk is a successful, money-making
> venture...IF it is able to benefit from attaching itself to the "host"
> of a well-established local heritage radio station. And we know that
> neither conservative nor progressive talk does well on its own without
> that "host." Did I just accidentally compare political talk radio to a
> parasite?
> -----
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