Archive for Overmodulation

Moribund the K

A few days back, Roger had a nifty little feature on American radio stations, the K— and W— call letters, and various outliers on the “wrong” side of the dividing line. None of us knew at the time that one of those outliers was about to be euthanized:

It’s not that we had any illusions that KQV (1410) in Pittsburgh was especially healthy, as standalone AMs go. Its directional signal struggles to cover even a fraction of the market, and its programming, which mixes expensive hours of all-news radio during the day with talk and classic radio dramas at night, has been all but invisible in the ratings for years now. That didn’t matter as much when the wealthy Richard Scaife was subsidizing the station as part of a media group that also included the Tribune-Review newspaper — but Scaife sold his partial interest in KQV a year before his death in 2014, leaving the station in the hands of the children of longtime GM Robert W. Dickey, Sr., who had himself died in 2011.

In November came news of the death of Dickey’s daughter Cheryl Scott, who’d been KQV’s business manager for decades, leaving her brother Robert W. Dickey, Jr. running the station solo. That appeared to have been the last straw for KQV in its current form. With Scott gone and family members apparently at odds about whether to keep the station going, Dickey, Jr. made the announcement on Friday that KQV will cease operating at midnight on Dec. 31.

KQV perhaps is best remembered for its days as a dominant Top 40 station, its relatively weak signal (5,000 watts, and weirdly directional, especially at night) notwithstanding. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, the Groovy QV, later 14K, brought you, if you were nearby, the latest hits. One of the voices between the singles in those latter days was one Jeff Christie, who’s still in radio today, though not in Top 40 and not on KQV. What’s more, Christie’s given up his pseudonym in favor of his real name: Rush Limbaugh.

Pittsburgh retains one K call from the old days: KDKA, owned these days by CBS.


All static, all the time (2)

From 2015: “Two years from now,” they predict, there will be no FM radio in Norway:

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio. It’s the end of an era.

As notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

As of yesterday, the deed is essentially done:

Norway on Wednesday completed its transition to digital radio, becoming the first country in the world to shut down national broadcasts of its FM radio network despite some grumblings.

As scheduled, the country’s most northern regions and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic switched to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the late morning, said Digitalradio Norge (DRN) which groups Norway’s public and commercial radio.

The transition, which began on January 11th, allows for better sound quality, a greater number of channels and more functions, all at a cost eight times lower than FM radio, according to authorities.

Downside: DAB receivers start at around €100; only about half of Norway’s motor vehicles are equipped with DAB; and at least some of the radio audience is missing in action:

According to a study cited by local media, the share of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has dropped by 10 percent in one year, and public broadcaster NRK has lost 21 percent of its audience.

Some local stations, not affiliated with the DRN group, are still running their FM transmitters.


A decidedly cloudy forecast

Cumulus Media, which owns 446 radio stations in the US, has been in dire straits:

Atlanta-based radio giant Cumulus Media has filed to reorganize in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with $2.4 billion in debt. It has reached an agreement with 69% of its term loan holders.

Cumulus’ pre-packaged restructuring agreement with lenders will reduce the company’s debt by more than $1 billion. The filing took place at United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Earlier this month, Cumulus defaulted on a nearly $24 million debt payment to its lenders. The stock will continue to trade on the OTC (over-the-counter) market, where it moved after being delisted at NASDAQ last week.

Shares in CMLS are selling for a very non-NASDAQy nine cents a share. And speaking of shares, the top-rated Cumulus station in Oklahoma City, the nation’s #50 market, is WWLS, the Sports Animal, which scored a 4 share, fifth among local stations.

Required management jargon:

Cumulus president/CEO Mary Berner insisted the company will turn its fortunes around in her press statement. “Over the last two years, we have focused on implementing a business plan to reverse the company’s multi-year ratings, revenue and EBITDA declines, create a culture that fosters motivated and engaged employees, and build an operational foundation to support the kind of performance we believe Cumulus is capable of delivering. This has resulted in increased ratings, revenue market share gains, improved employee satisfaction, reduced employee turnover and, over the last several quarters, our return to year-over-year EBITDA and revenue growth — demonstrating that turnaround has not only been successful, but is continuing. However, as we have noted consistently, the debt overhang left by previous years of underperformance remains a significant financial challenge that we must overcome for our operational turnaround to proceed.”

Short version: “Most of this crap happened before I got here.”

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A cord you need not cut

Mark Hill (no relation) happened upon this 1960s artifact:

AM radio by Internet Radio (Product) Limited

An apt name, he says, despite the lack of historical connection:

The cream case, flat upright format, rounded corners, and “screen”-like black tuning display all recall Jonathan Ive’s now legendary design for the iPod. The Internet radio even has white earphones! I’m not accusing Ive of copying it of course, but the resemblance is striking and I wonder if these mid-century portable transistor radios (which often look alike) were an influence on his design.

This particular model was made in Hong Kong. The one I had came from Japan:

“Nine-volt batteries back then were like three for a dollar instead of $3 apiece,” I muttered to myself this week as I replaced the unit in my ancient Radio Shack Weatheradio.

(Via American Digest.)

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The Sports Vegetables

Doc Searls could have predicted it, I suppose, but being Doc Searls, he chose to do the research, and it turns out that he was right. The top radio market for sports is Boston, and nowhere else comes close:

Boston 11.0
Philadelphia 8.7
Minneapolis-St. Paul 6.9
Detroit 6.4
Middlesex-Somerset-Union, NJ 6.4
Oklahoma City 6.2
Baltimore 6.1
Nashville 5.9
New York 5.8
Pittsburgh 5.8
Kansas City 5.8

Now how does Oklahoma City rate sixth, ahead of New York fercrissake? Here’s his methodology:

My source is Radio-Online’s Nielsen Radio Ratings, current as of today. The big markets all last reported on September 29, and they are posted monthly. Some of the mid-markets reported on dates in October. All of the bigs and the mids report monthly. The small markets, such as Green Bay, report quarterly. While Green Bay was last updated on August 2, the last quarter listed is Spring of this year. I also include side-markets, such as those flanking New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I list all the U.S. radio markets with a major league baseball, football, basketball or hockey team there or nearby.

And let’s face it, we have a hell of a lot of sports radio around here: three full-time AMs (KWPN, KGHM, KREF) and three FMs (WWLS-FM, KINB, KRXO-FM), plus the occasional translator, and KTOK carries much of the Los Angeles Dodgers season. Lots of signals for a market with one major-league team.

Now compare that to San Antonio, a somewhat larger market with one major-league team. There’s only one full-time sports station (KTKR), and they’re not the station carrying the Spurs, who are on WOAI.

Of course, we have OU and OSU to fill up space, especially during college-football season.


Have your affiliate

One of those ultra-informative Roberta X footnotes says:

Networks don’t have licenses; individual stations do. Only a tiny fraction of U.S. TV stations are actually owned by the network they carry. Most people don’t know that and assume that the station they watch ABNBCBS on must, in fact, be that network. So when a President Tweets, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” he is channeling H. L. Mencken’s Everyman, and threatening his waiter for the misdeeds of the cook.

The phrase that caught my eye was “tiny fraction.” When I started paying attention to this stuff back around 1970, there existed something called the 7-7-7 rule, tucked handily into the FCC regulations: a single owner, individual or corporate, could own a maximum of seven TV stations, seven AM radio stations and seven FM radio stations. Since each of the three networks in this pre-Fox era had about 200 affiliates nationwide, “tiny fraction” described the situation rather precisely.

But that was nearly half a century ago; regulations have been loosened, and in some instances thrown out entirely. Does “tiny fraction” still apply? The answer, I learned, is yes: CBS owns about 30 TV stations, NBC 13, and ABC only eight.

Does CBS, then, have twice the reach of its rivals? Not even. Of the 30 stations owned by CBS, only 16 actually carry CBS programs. Eight carry the program schedule of The CW, a network owned half by CBS and half by Time Warner. Two more are affiliated with MyNetworkTV, a sister company to, um, Fox. The other four are wholly independent.

Before you ask: Fox owns 28 stations. The largest station operator is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 173 stations, not including the Tribune Media properties which Sinclair has contracted to buy.

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In color where available

This dates to about 1965, or nine years before our thrifty-or-else family actually got a color TV. And yes, it was an RCA Victor.

1965 advertisement for RCA Victor color TV

Most of those sets were 21-inchers; the console with the stereo system says specifically it’s 25 inches. As always, the screen measurement is taken along a diagonal, since Pythagoras promised them it would be a bigger number.

And if you were alive in ’65, you might have seen these on the Big Three networks:

Of course, I got to see them in black and white.

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Nothing the least bit special

The big thing about cable television, back in the good old days (or maybe the old good days), was that you were presumably paying for higher-quality programming. Not anymore:

[T]hey start out with high quality and unique programming, but eventually every channel has its own variant on:

  1.   a show about a pawnshop or “antique pickers”
  2.   some kind of food competition show
  3.   a show about “tiny houses” with impossibly cute couples talking about how “great” it is to trade their big house for what’s essentially a stationary RV
  4.   some kind of freakshow thing about medical conditions
  5.   a fighting-family show, where either the family’s weirdness is the hook, or the fact that they all work in the same industry
  6.   some kind of show that maybe claims some kind of “anthropology” cred but is really voyeurism like all those shows about the Amish a couple years ago.

You could have seen this coming thirty years ago:

By the early 1980s, cable television had reached millions of American households and was starting to draw significant audiences away from the “Big Three” broadcast television networks. All three networks saw opportunities to expand into cable television in order to protect and grow their audiences, and they all experimented with niche programming. In fact, all three traditional networks introduced arts-related channels within one year of each other. CBS launched CBS Cable in 1981, which focused on “art house” and critical acclaimed programs; NBC, meanwhile, launched the similarly formatted The Entertainment Channel.

ABC partnered with the Hearst Corporation to create its own arts-oriented service, the Alpha Repertory Television Service. ARTS launched on April 12, 1981, focusing on highbrow cultural fare such as opera, ballet, classical symphonic performances, dramatic theater productions and select foreign films (besides CBS Cable and The Entertainment Channel, ARTS also competed with Bravo and the Public Broadcasting Service). Many cable providers had limited channel bandwidth at that time over their headends; as a result, CBS Cable struggled to find channel carriage and an audience, eventually folding in late 1982. However, while ARTS fared no better in finding viewers, it shared channel space with Nickelodeon, signing on at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time after the children’s television network ended its broadcast day. That shared channel arrangement was a perfect symbiotic scheduling match for the two networks given their respective audience demographics (the target viewership of ARTS either did not have young children or had sent them to bed by the time the channel began its programming).

What was ARTS is now, um, A&E, and it draws its programming largely from those half-dozen “ideas” above.

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Not their first 24-hour rodeo

FamilyNet television is no more. Say hello to the Cowboy Channel:

The cowboy’s lifestyle has long been one of fanciful dreams. Wide open spaces, lifelong friendships and shared experiences along with the special code of ethics that have made the cowboy a symbol of our American heritage and the West.

The cowboy represents a special type of person: fiercely independent, self-reliant, adventuresome, trustworthy and one of the first true environmentalists. His/Her lifestyle embodies many of the attributes we again are striving for in both our personal and professional lives.

There is a growing attraction to this philosophy among a wide cross section of Americans: business professionals, blue collar workers, among all age groups who feel integrity and honesty in business, and our personal lives, have been misplaced.

“The Cowboy Channel” is designed to bring the spirit of the American Cowboy to cable, satellite, and over-the-top audiences through extensive coverage of all western sports, documentaries, events, comedy, music and entertainment.

Projected audience: anyone who knows the words to “Don’t Fence Me In”; anyone who’s ever clambered down to street level, looked back at a rabbit warren of apartments and thought, “You know what? This sucks.”

McG notes:

RFD-TV [the Cowboy Channel’s sister station] has been sponsoring an annual rodeo called The American, the success of which has convinced the corporation there is sufficient demand for Western sports above and beyond what RFD, with its agribusiness and agrarian lifestyle focus, could offer.

I wonder if there’s any interest in cross-marketing with GunTV.

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Phone KOmrade-RU12

Niche-market radio station disappears, replaced by station with a different niche. Nothing new about that, with, um, one minor exception in the District of Columbia:

Those who’ve become accustomed to hearing bluegrass music when they turn the dial to 105.5 FM are in for a surprise—the bandwidth now broadcasts Sputnik, a “global wire, radio and digital news service” funded by the Russian government.

“It’s radio that brings you the views that you don’t get from other stations,” says Mindia Gavasheli, the editor in chief of Sputnik U.S.

And surely it doesn’t cost as much to operate as did the US branch of Al-Jazeera, though this makes me wonder:

Sputnik news feeds in English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese are available around the clock. Regional editorial offices in Washington, Cairo, Beijing and Montevideo work 24/7 to provide a non-stop newscast.

Sputnik has been carried on an HD subchannel of 93.9 WKYS, an urban-contemporary station; the bluegrass programming is now on a subchannel of noncommercial WAMU.

Still, I’m going to find it irresistible to crank up some Cold War parodies of Soviet-style broadcasting. From 1959, “Russian Band Stand” by Spencer and Spencer:

One of those Spencers is King of Novelty Dickie Goodman. (Side note: We had a temp who, after listening to about half an hour of my iTunes install, told me there was one record I couldn’t possibly have: this one. I duly jumped it to the front of the shuffle. He was gone after a few days.)

Eight years later, your favorite Russian disk jockey, Nikita the K:

Which, you’ll note, is the source of this otherwise-inexplicable title.

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Keepers of the sacred tablets

Welcome to Rare Disease Month. (Actually, I think that was February, but no matter.) This should make the producers of the few remaining soap operas very, very happy. Look what it did for ABC’s General Hospital:

A recent plot twist … had one character not just getting any cancer, but polycythemia vera (PV), a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN). In other words, a rare form of blood cancer for which the standard treatment is blood-letting and anticoagulants.

The TV patient, not satisfied with this prognosis, demands of the doctor, “This protocol sounds like you are treating the symptoms of this cancer; how do we beat it?” “I have to keep going to bloodlettings for the rest of my life?”

Now that’s the beginning of a story arc for the ages. And there’s technical assistance to be had:

Why is GH highlighting this incredibly specific cancer? It’s ostensibly the culmination of a partnership between a company called the Incyte Corporation and the producers of the show to raise awareness for MPNs as part of rare disease month.

Or, you know, not:

But in an opinion piece published this week in medical journal JAMA, Dr. Sham Mailankody of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Dr. Vinay Prasad of Oregon Health & Science University argue that this is really just stealth advertising for Incyte, which just so happens to make only one FDA-approved product, ruxolitinib, which (you can probably see where this is going) is used to treat MPNs, including PV.

Doesn’t sound like an off-label usage. What’s the problem?

But the fictional circumstances could make it seem like ruxolitinib is a first-line therapy for PV, which it is not, the doctors note.

“Instead it has a precise and narrow indication,” they write, explaining that the drug is approved only for patients with an inadequate response or intolerance to chemotherapy, who are dependent on blood-letting, and who have an enlarged spleen.

“Thus, if PV is rare, appropriate use of ruxolitinib in PV should be rarer still,” the doctors say.

On the other hand, you’re not going to see routine stuff like mere strep on General Hospital, fercrissake. And you don’t want to know how much Jakafi (the brand name under which ruxolitinib is sold) is going to cost.

Oh, you do? I checked prices in my neighborhood, and we’re talking $2,800.

For fourteen tablets.

Two hundred bucks, give or take a dollar or three, per tab. If you’re going to be able to afford that, it probably helps to have a steady gig on an ABC soap.

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Four’s a crowd

First, the jargon:

Sinclair Broadcast Group has set a $3.9 billion cash-and-stock agreement to acquire Tribune Media, a deal that will bring more than 200 TV stations under one roof and vault Sinclair into the big leagues of national TV.

“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” said Chris Ripley, president-CEO of Sinclair. “The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets. The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals. The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms.”

This is where it gets interesting, at least in this market: Sinclair already owns KOKH-TV (Fox) and KOCB (The CW), while Tribune owns KFOR-TV (NBC) and KAUT-TV (independent). Up to now, the FCC has allowed no more than two stations per owner in a single market:

The rule allows an entity to own up to two TV stations in the same [Designated Market Area] if either (1) the service areas — known as “Grade B signal contours” — of the stations do not overlap; or (2) at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on market share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.

Condition 2 obtains here: KOCB doesn’t make it to the top four, as you might expect of an affiliate of the fifth-place network, and the Oklahoma City market has 13 full-power TV stations with 11 different owners. The third duopoly, should you want to know, is Griffin Communications’ KWTV-DT (CBS) and KSBI (MyNetworkTV).

Loosening of the FCC ownership rules is an ongoing process, headed by the FCC’s Ajit Pai, nomimated to the Commission by President Obama in 2012, and named Chairman by President Trump in 2017. However, I can’t see them loosening the rules enough to allow one entity to own four full-power stations in a single market; Sinclair, I’m thinking, will sell off one or two. And since KOKH and KOCB are pretty solidly integrated, I don’t expect Sinclair to break up the set; I mean, what would happen to the content verticals?

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Shutting the Fox up

WFXT in Boston, which was but is no longer owned by Fox Broadcasting, has been downplaying its network affiliation, apparently as a matter of branding:

FOX 25 Boston is dropping the FOX affiliation from its newscast names.

The station is switching to “Boston 25 News” starting April 24.

“The perception of what our TV news station does is not what we do. They perceive us to be part of the Fox News family,” said general manager of the Cox-owned station Tom Raponi.

The Fox 25 branding will remain for non-news shows, which presumably don’t embarrass leftish Bostonians the way Fox News apparently does.

(Via Patrick Phillips.)

Addendum: Then there’s this:

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Four channels and nothing on

An artifact from the early days of cable:

What I wanted to know is this: what four channels? Sault Ste. Marie had no TV stations of its own in 1969; WWUP-TV (UP, get it?), channel 10, rebroadcast WWTV, the CBS station in Cadillac, Michigan; WPBN-TV (then owned by the Paul Bunyan Network), channel 7, brought in NBC from Traverse City. There was no ABC affiliate back then, so those two split whatever ABC programs they thought might be worth carrying. (In 1971, WGTU, channel 29, would sign on from Traverse City as a full-time ABC affiliate; five years later they added a satellite on channel 8 in Sault Ste. Marie proper.) Educational TV? Maybe, if you could pick up WCMU-TV from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant — and if you were on the cable, you probably could, even though WCMU was way out on channel 14.

Still, we’ve accounted for only three channels. For the fourth, we must venture northward. In 1955, CJIC-TV signed on from the Ontario side of the river on channel 2; it became a CBC affiliate, closing down in 2002. (It’s now rebroadcasting CBC Toronto.)

As for prices, well, $3.99 a month (we’re extrapolating from “13 cents a day”) for four channels works out to about a buck a channel. Last time I rescanned the TV I was getting 106 channels for $86, 81 cents a channel. If there were economies of scale in the cable industry, they’ve long since faded away.

(I should point out here that I’ve spent maybe half a week of my life in Michigan, and none in the Upper Peninsula; I do have a lot of reference materials, and occasionally, I have time on my hands.)

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Clickbait for the eyes

“It is indeed a goddam noisy box,” Jubal Harshaw said to the Man from Mars. And of course he was right:

I think I’m done with local news. This morning they reported on a string of burglaries a couple counties south of me and spent about a minute on the story, and then lavished five minutes (roughly) on one of those “Florida Man” stories where someone gets themselves in trouble with the law in a highly stupid way and I was like, “I could use more detail about the LOCAL burglaries so I could know what to do to avoid becoming a victim” but of course, entertainment value and the freak-show that modern life has become seems to be more important and probably gets more eyeballs.

Once again, I think of my plan to offer a “Just News” channel that ran the important news stories — no celebrity fluff, no dumb-criminal stories, no oversweetened Human Interest stuff — and repeated it every 15 minutes or so. Or maybe devoted 15 minutes to Europe news, 15 minutes to The Americas, 15 minutes to Asia, and 15 minutes to Africa … and then loop it around. (And yeah: Australia would have to go in with Asia, I suppose.)

“You give us 22 minutes,” says WINS Radio in New York, “and we’ll give you the world.” And they’ve been doing that for over 50 years.

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Sort of a bandwagon

And a short bandwagon at that, but surely no harm is being done:

A Birmingham radio station is taking women hosts off the air and will only play songs by men as part of [today’s] “A Day Without a Woman” protest.

WUHT/Hot 107.7, a Cumulus Media station, said the change reflects the absence of women for the day. Midday host Tasha Simone and station voice Jeannie Johnson will be off air for the day and all songs played during non-syndication hours will feature men only.

“This was an easy decision for us,” said Ken Johnson, Operations Manager, WUHT-FM/Hot 107.7, and Vice President, Urban, Cumulus Media, said. “Women are our core listeners and these women contribute a great deal to our sound. Honoring women by highlighting to the community how important they are is a no-brainer.”

Wonder if DJ Big Sweatt will get his hours extended.

“Plus,” said Johnson, “hearing more Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross is not a bad thing.”

True that.

(Via Kirby McCain.)

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We’ll be Bach, somewhere

Our old friend Lisa let it be known what she was listening to instead of the Trump Show yesterday:

Automotive radio tuned to KDFC in the San Francisco Bay Area

This banged into my forehead, since once upon a time I had memorized the dial position of just about every commercial classical-music station in the nation, and KDFC, so far as I remembered, was at 102.1. (They’d had a crosstown rival, KKHI, at 95.7, but they died about 20 years ago.)

So what happened here? It didn’t take long to find the truth of the matter:

The KDFC-FM call sign and programming were previously assigned to 102.1 FM, from its inception in 1948 until January 2011, when the format and intellectual property moved to the former KUSF. The University of Southern California also acquired the 89.9 FM frequency in Angwin, California and its two translator signals in Eureka and Lakeport. The KDFC call sign was officially assigned to the Angwin station.

But that’s 89.9. This KDFC must therefore be — another translator! And so it is.

Historically, 104.9 has been the location of a lot of small-town signals that didn’t compete with the Big Boys; originally FM Class A was limited to 3,000 watts ERP at 100 meters, and only Class A stations were assigned to 104.9. This is no longer the case, and current Class A stations are allowed 6,000 watts. But KDFC isn’t the only classical station that got shunted off to 104.9; WCLV in Cleveland, formerly on a 30-kw stick at 95.5, not only moved down the dial but out of town, into the city of Lorain to the northwest. I remember dialing in from south of Cleveland and making a turn eastward to see if the new and unimproved signal could reach Severance Hall, on Cleveland’s east side. (Answer: barely, at least with the equipment I had.)

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We got your playlist right here, pal

Were I not actually here and able to tune in 101.7, I’d almost believe this:

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Local Christian radio station 101.7 WSLT “Salt & Light Radio” announced Friday a new programming direction wherein its radio hosts would be instructed to select from a list of nine different songs, up from the usual eight — which was already double the industry standard.

“After careful consideration, we’ve decided to add Chris Tomlin’s ‘Good, Good Father’ to the rotation. We know we’ll get some push-back here, but we believe God loves diversity and creativity,” a spokesman for the station said in a statement Friday.

“Of course, we’ll still be playing the other eight songs over and over and over again — we just really wanted to push the boundaries by adding one more to the rotation,” he noted. “But the staples like ‘The God I Know,’ ‘Holy Spirit,’ ‘Oceans,’ and that song where the girl says she’s going to get her worship on aren’t going anywhere.”

Actually, that last song is not bad at all:

And with a nine-song rotation, you probably won’t hear it more than once an hour.

That said, there’s no available space at 101.7 in this market, what with a big Class C FM at 101.9.

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Asleep at the switch

ESPN Radio, bless them, actually provided radio coverage of the first game of the World Series, which suited me fine since they generally go to the trouble to pretend to be unbiased, something that wasn’t going to happen with the Cubs network (WSCR) or the Indians network (WTAM).

Unfortunately, KWPN, the local ESPN Radio affiliate (640 AM), gave an indication of being woefully short of clues. Unable to determine whether to run ESPN’s national spots or their local commercials between innings, they ran both simultaneously. This is the manner of radio stations that aren’t paying attention to their business.

(They finally figured this out in the middle of the fourth; I have no idea whether they saw my none-too-gentle tweet on the subject. Unfortunately, the malpractice resumed half an inning later; eventually I gave up and returned to WTAM.)

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I always miss these things

But I suspect it was fun while it lasted:

MP Media has relaunched its recently acquired 105.1 WVWF Waverly TN and has begun stunting as “Trump 105.1.”

The station is running a brief loop of songs with a brief connection to Trump such as Gloria Estefan’s “Bad Boy” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” Sweepers include the predictable “Making Radio Great Again” and “Building A Wall Around Other Stations.”

The station is now imaging itself as 105.1 The Wolf. Still, I’m wondering how many songs one could associate with Donald Trump, besides the Beatles’ obvious “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” and your suggestions are welcomed.

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Sound bite, rebitten

It’s 44 years old, more or less, but the memory of this one segue has stuck with me all the while.

Tech Hi-Fi, an electronics retailer that bought tons of radio advertising in those days, had this one spot, which I heard on then-tiny WAAF, stuck at the far end of the dial in Worcester, Massachusetts. I can’t for the life of me remember the words, but they were set to a shortened version (no more than one minute) of “When I Was a Lad” from HMS Pinafore.

They cut off the song with the last line from the chorus, and one of the greatest songs of 1878 was followed by one of the greatest songs of 1972:

To this day, if I hear “When I Was a Lad,” I’ll expect it to be followed by “I’ll Be Around.” And if more people remember Gilbert and Sullivan than Thom Bell, well, life is like that sometimes.

I am also indebted to WAAF for playing the original Move version of “Do Ya,” which charted at a meager #93 in those curious days of 1972. Jeff Lynne, who wrote it, recut it with Electric Light Orchestra in 1976, but as the man1 says, the original’s still the greatest.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A pause to remember

It was a single paragraph in the midst of several others:

Thomas Copenhaver is selling his two stations in Marion VA to CDM Broadcasting. Classic Rock 102.5 WOLD-FM and CHR “Z103.5” WZVA go from TEC2 Broadcasting and TECO Broadcasting respectively to CDM for $651,039. CDM began operating the two stations via Time Brokerage Agreement on August 1.

Wait a minute. WOLD?

Yep. Actually, that call predates the late Harry Chapin’s song by six years; they were a country station at the time and didn’t play it.

From a 1987 tribute to Harry, featuring brothers Tom and Steve, here’s Richie Havens with this song of the DJ who is no longer young:

I was suspecting, though, that like Harry and Richie, WOLD might be dead: their livestream produced nothing, and their Web site had been taken over. Nothing at WZVA either. I left a query at the WOLD Facebook page; they say they’re still around and that the new owners are implementing new Web stuff.

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Clear that channel!

Radio, notes Doc Searls, really isn’t “radio” anymore:

It’s just a name for one legacy-labeled stream among countless others on the Net. Radio’s boat-anchor legacy is called “range” and “coverage.” On AM and FM, those are limited to a city or region, and to legacy receiving devices mostly used in cars, where more and more sources of content (Apple, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, et. al.) are appearing on the dashboard. The quality of legacy radio electronics is also limited to cheap available chipsets and by the fashion of concealing antennas, which makes reception even worse.

This latter, after looking at my car, certainly seems true to me: Bose, or whoever made this auto system for them, might have spent maybe 85 cents on the AM section, and the antenna is more or less hidden among the rear-defroster wires, good for aesthetics, not so good for reception.

But this I did not know, though I shouldn’t have been surprised:

AM won’t even work in all-electric cars, thanks to interference from computing machinery. That’s why it’s not included in Teslas.

Nissan will sell you an AM/FM/CD system for the all-electric Leaf, but then it’s probably got a lot fewer sources of interference than the Tesla.

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Where peacocks once roamed

During a Dodgers/Phillies game, I heard a reference to “NBC News Radio,” and wondered where that came from.

Now I know:

NBC News Radio has been distributed by iHeartMedia and its TTWN Networks since July 2016. It is provided to the network’s 24/7 News Source affiliates and includes a top of the hour newscast along with other audio content which is heard on over 1000 radio stations.

The original NBC Radio Network was purchased by Westwood One in 1987 as General Electric, which acquired NBC’s parent company RCA, divested most properties not pertaining to the NBC television network. NBC Radio’s news operation was merged into the Mutual Broadcasting System, then into Westwood One’s then-corporate sibling CBS Radio, and eventually assimilated into the syndicator itself. Initially just a service limited to one-hour reports from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, on March 5, 2012, Dial Global — who had acquired Westwood One — announced NBC News Radio would expand to a full-time 24-hour radio news network, replacing CNN Radio (that itself replaced both NBC Radio and Mutual in 1999).

Awfully convoluted, this story, but then that was to be expected.

Far as I know, they have no affiliate here in the 405; iHeartMedia’s one news-oriented station in this market is, like many of its corporate sisters, emotionally wedded to Fox.

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Fading into silence

A hint at what radio used to be:

Advertisement for radio station KWK in St Louis, 1947

You’d think an original three-letter call from the 1920s would be worth preserving, but apparently not: starting in 1984, KWK went through a dizzying variety of call letters, ending in 2015 as KXFN. Before it was KWK, it was KFVE, and over the years they moved from 1280 to 1350 to 1380. For a while, there was also an FM, at 106.5. This made for some interesting situations:

Since the AM and FM stations were licensed in different cities, KWK was only allowed to simulcast on both frequencies for a portion of the day. John Hutchinson remembered “when the AM and FM broadcasts were split, the FM jock would play the playlist from the top of the page down and the AM jock would play tunes from the bottom of the page up. When the time came to simulcast we would pick a tune over the intercom and try to begin the tunes at the same time so that we could flip the ‘simulcast’ switch and purportedly no one would detect the merge. Of course this did not always happen smoothly … causing much hilarity amongst the air staff.”

The station has been silent since last December. The Mutual Broadcasting System was killed by Westwood One in 1999; the “Muny,” still in Forest Park, continues.

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The bloom is off

Ad for KVOS-TV featuring Jack Benny

This turned up at the International Jack Benny Fan Club, and yeah, that’s a great picture of Jack, but what puzzled me was the plug for KVOS-TV in “Canada’s Third Market.” Clearly not a Canadian call. I of course had to hunt this station down, and found it in Bellingham, Washington:

In 1955, [owner Rogan] Jones, realizing that most of his audience was across the border, incorporated KVOS in Canada, establishing a subsidiary company in Vancouver. The subsidiary, KVOS-TV Limited, brought in revenue for the station by allowing many Vancouver-area businesses to buy advertising time on the station, which is still the case today. KVOS-TV continued to broadcast from Bellingham, with much of its audience based in southwestern British Columbia.

Eventually, KVOS-TV gave up its CBS affiliation; it now carries MeTV. (Reruns of The Jack Benny Program air weekends on rival Antenna TV.)

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No amplitude to modulate

Québec City has over half a million people, with a quarter-million more nearby. What it doesn’t have is any AM radio service:

Hit SCAN on your radio in the daytime and it’ll stroll nonstop while finding nothing. Hit it at night and it’ll stop at every channel, finding mostly skywave signals bouncing in from U.S. stations. The big ones on relatively clear channels — e.g. WFAN/660, WOR/710, WABC/770 and WCBS/880 from New York — come in like locals. From Canada the only two “clears” still left in Ontario or Quebec, CHWO/740 and CJBC/860 (former English and French CBC landmarks in Toronto) — come in too.

But Canada has pretty much abandoned the AM band. I’m a bit surprised, because only AM skywave can reach radios in Canada’s vast outlying rural and wilderness areas. Alas, the transmitter site for both the 740 and 860 signals turned out to be somewhat farther from Toronto than other AMs, with disadvantaged their signals in town, even though their night signals reached pretty much all of eastern Canada. So the CBC let them go.

When did all this happen? I found a pre-postmortem for the last AM station in the capital:

CHRC started in 1926, and spent most of its life as a talk station, notably the home of André Arthur (who expressed his thoughts to Radio-Canada). In 2005, it became Info 800, a sister station to Info 690 in Montreal. Then it was taken over by the Remparts and Patrick Roy. Its current format is mostly sports talk, with Quebec Remparts (QMHJL) and Laval Rouge et Or university football games (both of those will move to Cogeco’s FM93) and Quebec Capitales baseball games.

It’s not terribly surprising that such a station wouldn’t find a way to work, especially since there’s no other AM radio in the region and so little reason for anyone to even switch over to the AM band.

The last day was 30 September 2012.

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Meanwhile on Channel 1

The FCC officially shut down TV channel 1 in 1948, but somehow a Channel 1 exists today: KAXT-CD in San Jose, California. How this works:

The DTV virtual channels between KAXT-LD’s Channel 22 (physical: 42, formerly 22) and KRCB’s Channel 22 (physical: 23) Cotati, had significant overlap that caused a PSIP conflict, allowing KAXT-CD to move to a new virtual channel, Channel 1. KAXT operates with a PSIP of Channel 1, with 12 different video program streams and one audio-only channels for a total of 13 virtual channels.

These are, yes, virtual channels: the actual KAXT signal is on channel 42, but to tune it in over the air, you’d set your TV to channel 1.

Or that’s what it says, anyway. I can’t seem to pick up their stream.

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Must have been some pitch

What did KLAC (570 AM) in Los Angeles pay for the broadcast rights to Dodgers games? If you’re thinking an arm and a leg, you’re pretty close:

KLAC will be spun into Los Angeles Broadcasting Partners, a new holding company held by the two groups. iHeart [Media] will retain 51% of the ownership of the station as well as control of its day-to-day operations. The Dodgers through its LARadioCo will hold 49% of the station.

In case you weren’t paying attention, iHeartMedia is the group owner formerly known as Clear Channel.

And the Dodgers get one more chip:

As part of the deal, iHeart cannot launch another Sports station in the Los Angeles market for the next fifteen years without the written consent of the Dodgers.

Oh, KLAC is also carrying the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers.

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An earful of Bollywood

Bollywood movies — indeed, South Asian cinema is general — can be expected to contain a whole lot of original, in the sense of “written for this picture, anyway,” music.

And with terrestrial radio hard up for programming of late, this was probably inevitable:

Cumulus Media has ended its LMA of Universal Media Access’ 92.3 KSJO San Jose CA.

Universal Media Access has flipped the station to Indian music as “Bolly 92.3”. They had registered anonymously in late January and the site is now live promoting it as “The Bay Area’s Bollywood Station.”

You didn’t think Cumulus would come up with this on their own, did you?

Not much so far on the Web site but a link for livestreaming: the stream has been somewhat erratic, but what I’ve heard has been great fun.

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