August 03, 2005

The More Things Change...

This morning, All Access ran one of those cryptic one-liners that I love so much:

Does an FM station in SAN FRANCISCO have its hand on the format wheel? Is it about to land on Talk?
Let the speculation begin. All Access is noted for having a decent ear to the ground when it comes to stuff like this. Somebody somewhere dropped this tasty tidbit and everyone will run with it, guessing what station will make the change, and when, and with who on the air. I love it.

And the timing couldn't be weirder.

Many years ago, I published an online rag called the Bay Area Radio Digest (which, for several years, was also a print magazine), which I've been working at reviving with this sad excuse for a blog and a few other minor projects. I was flipping through some old saved HTML pages today when I came across this article from the online edition, written by Bill Mann on September 17, 1999.

I think it makes an interesting period piece, and an excellent rear-view mirror on how the more things seem to change, the more it's just the same stuff in a different wrapper...

Mann About San Francisco
Bay Area Radio News, Notes, and Opinions
By Bill Mann

More Talk, Less Class. For years, I’ve asked in print why we don’t have more radio talk stations in the Bay Area to compete with colossus KGO. A year ago, it looked like doomed country station KNEW (at 910 AM) might go talk, but it ended up, alas, simulcasting the hack piano and vocal noodlings of ’70s relic and hairplug boy Elton John with K-101.

Sure, there was KSFO — liberals here quickly and somewhat unfairly nicknamed it "Sieg Heil on Your Dial" and "Reichstag Radio" — but it’s KGO’s Disney sister station, for crissakes, and it was aimed primarily at the Billary haters. It isn’t true competition for KGO. And KPIX AM-FM died soon after the O.J. Simpson trial ended.

Well, this week the Bay Area got another talker, at 1550 AM. After tuning in the CBS-owned, now-branded "Yadda Yadda Radio" several times this week, I kept thinking of that old movie line: "Oh, what fresh hell is this?"

I don’t know what sucks worse, 1550’s signal and dial position or its programming, all of it Westwood One stuff that hadn’t been cleared here (for good reason).

The station, former Y93’s country simulcaster, looks suspiciously like it’s keeping the format warm for the day coming soon when the FM at 93.3 drops hillbilly music (God, I miss that term) and needs a format post haste. (By the way, I was informed this week that New York City is already blessedly country-free, so we’ll be the second, not the first, market to have that badge of honor if Y93 moseys.)

"Yadda" is, however, running a funny promo: "The nation’s best talk hosts on the station with the world’s worst ratings."

Well, it’s half right.

Mr. Dissipation, Don Imus, who’d already been on the AM — the rest of the day, the two stations had simulcast yee-haw music — stays at the "new" Yadda Yadda, mostly because he gets miniscule ratings and poses absolutely no threat, ratings or otherwise, to CBS/Infinity’s cash cow Howard Stern over on Live 105.

After Imus, we now get the return of crackpot, convicted felon, and NRA shill G. Gordon Liddy, who got no ratings here when he briefly surfaced on KPIX four years ago. He’s now heard on 1550 advertising a product called "Clean-Up," which is "great news for gun owners. It’s a new, cleaner lubricant."

I’m guessing Liddy doesn’t just use the stuff on his firearms, if you catch my drift. (When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will be able to kill and maim innocent members of their immediate families, Gordo.)

What now follows at 3 p.m. is one of the more disgraceful offerings heard on local radio lately, and that’s no small feat. We want to pause now to thank local Infinity programming boss Will Schutte, the man who gave us KFRC’s unlistenable morning duo Wan and Hammy, for dredging up the old, not-at-all improved Tom Leykis, whose disgraceful show these days is a different than the old (also low-rated) political show he used to do when he aired here on KPIX and on Santa Rosa’s KSRO. (Schutte, not surprisingly, didn’t return my three phone calls about Leykis’ infantile antics and show.)

As KGO boss Jack Swanson put it earlier this week, what works on FM talk doesn’t always sound good on AM. Swanson is unconcerned about 1550, and he has every reason not to be. But Leykis’ mess would sound just as childish on FM, even if more at home these days of bodily function radio.
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