The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

5 January 2003

And now, the news

Radio station KOMA has been vending oldies for some time now, both on FM and on AM. It's not purely a simulcast: the AM breaks away for five minutes of CBS news at the top of the hour, something the FM listeners presumably don't want. (The AM also carries Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor weekdays.) None of this presents a problem, except that the AM breakaway is abrupt; if there happens to be a song playing, too bad. And five minutes later, when the FM simulcast is restored, it's just as abrupt.

Now when I was growing up, some actual thought was put into how to segue into the news. Most of my listening in the early-to-middle-Sixties was straight Top 40 stuff, informed (this being South Carolina) by heavy R&B influences, and what was usually chosen as a suitable Last Song of the Segment was something with a fairly ornate outro that could be talked over during its last couple of seconds. The archetype, I'd say, might be "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful, which gathers its forces for one final blast of electrified ferocity before settling into a quick fade. Cold endings usually did not work well in this context.

None of this matters particularly in 2003, I suppose. And the FM facility probably draws four or five times the listeners of the AM outlet — at least within the market area. But KOMA pumps out 50,000 watts due west and north. With much of the AM band given over to talkers and sports, it's one of the few actual music stations you can pick up in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning, and I suspect someone else, hundreds of miles away, is just as annoyed by this station's sloppy practices as I am.

Posted at 8:25 AM to Overmodulation

My car radio is set so that switching from FM to AM lands you on KOMA-AM. I will occasionally do this to mostly marvel at how much =better= the same song sounds on the FM side. I was thrilled when they first comandeered the FM channel. Anyway once or twice I have done this switchover just in time to hear what you speak of. And it is sloppy. I hear they are toying with the idea of making the AM all news?

Posted by: ms7168 at 10:30 AM on 5 January 2003

Actually, with really good AM gear, the sort that never seems to find its way into stereo systems, the difference isn't all that pronounced; the FM is stereo, yes (so was the AM, for a while), but on my brace of Cambridge Soundworks 88s, the AM is actually quite listenable, though there's the expected rolloff above 7 kHz or so. (I assume this is done to improve selectivity, and if so, it works; I can pick up WSM at night pretty well, despite the fact that it's only 10 kHz away from local station WWLS.)

The news-talk rumors have been boiling for some time, and the presence of a KOMA News Web site adds to their credibility, but I think they're playing a waiting game for now, to see what Citadel does with WKY and what happens when, as expected, KTOK moves to 1210 and 50 kw.

Posted by: CGHill at 11:06 AM on 5 January 2003